Posted on January 15th, 2014
Autopilot was the only thing controlling an Airbus A330 for an unknown amount of time after both pilots went to sleep behind the controls. Despite no accident occurring, the situation is raising questions over pilot fatigue and the dangers it presents.
The pilots, who came clean to authorities on their own, said they intended to rotate taking 20 minute naps when they both fell asleep at the same time. Having received only five hours of sleep in two nights, the fatigue proved to be too much.
The incident happened aboard a British airline. The U.K has rules establishing how much sleep pilots need to operate a plane safely and efficiently. However, time zone changes make it difficult to actually establish how much sleep pilots receive when flying internationally. Many say the Civil Aviation Authority is too “complacent” regarding pilot fatigue and regulations should be stricter.
In 2009, a plane crashed into the ocean and killed the 299 passengers aboard. It was later found that the pilot only received an hour of sleep the night before flying. Last month, a UPS cargo plane crashed, killing the pilot and co-pilot. The incident has caused the FAA to reconsider pilot fatigue standards.
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