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Airline Pilot Falls Asleep While Alone at the Controls

I’m not someone who can easily sleep on planes, so I’m kind of jealous of all these pilots that have managed to doze off on board … while they’re supposed to be flying.

A new “dozing at the wheel” story was reported by CNN, after the Dutch Safety Board released a report on the incident.

This case took place aboard a Dutch airline (Transavia) on a flight from Greece to the Netherlands. According to the safety report, one of the two pilots left the cockpit to use the bathroom about 2.5 hours into the flight. When he returned to the cockpit and requested to be let in (most cockpit doors automatically lock for security reasons now), the other pilot (the first officer) did not respond.

After attempts at rousing the first officer failed, the pilot and crew were able to open the cockpit door from the outside. There, the first office was snoozing soundly at the controls, unaware of what was happening.

A spokesperson for the Dutch Safety Board stated, “It’s a serious incident. What makes it serious is the combination of the pilot being unable to access the cockpit and the first officer being asleep … By ‘serious incident,’ I mean the flight was in danger.”

Domestic flyers can relax a bit—CNN reported that American airlines require a flight attendant to be in the cockpit when a second pilot leaves the cockpit, in case the solo pilot falls sick (or falls asleep). However, in a 2012 survey, nearly half of British Airlines Pilots Association pilots who responded admitted to having falling asleep at while flying, so perhaps it’s time to reevaluate the number of rest hours required for the people flying our planes before something serious happens.

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