Pilots Fell Asleep on British Plane While on Autopilot, Says Report

Friday, 27 Sep 2013 07:54 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Two pilots fell asleep on a British passenger plane while it was airborne and on autopilot, according to a report released on Thursday.

The pilots, whose names were withheld, had apparently been taking turns napping when at one point both dozed off during the Airbus A330 flight in August, CBS News reported.

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The Sun broke the story, running the front-page headline "This is Your Captains Sleeping." The report was acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request.

According to the report, which was filed with the U.K.'s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the Aug. 13 incident was the result of the pilots' "insufficient opportunity to sleep." Both pilots had just five hours of sleep in two nights.  

The pilots "eventually woke and roused the other – but neither knew how long they had dozed," The Sun reported.

A CAA spokesperson responded to the report.

"Safety is the CAA's number one priority," the spokesperson said. "We take fatigue related incidents extremely seriously and will address detailed questions to individual airlines when problems emerge.

"The UK has an excellent safety record, but we are constantly striving to improve air safety and strongly encourage anyone in the aviation industry, especially pilots, to use our completely confidential reporting procedure to tell us of any concerns they may have," the statement added.

The British Airline Pilots Association (BAPA), a United Kingdom pilots union, countered the CAA's response, saying the incident was "no surprise" given the working conditions of pilots, CBS News reported.

"British pilots want to make every flight a safe flight and tiredness is the biggest challenge they face," Jim McAuslan, the general secretary of the BAPA, said in a statement. "As the regulator responsible for UK flight safety the CAA has been far too complacent about the levels of tiredness among British pilots and failing to acknowledge the scale of the underreported problem."

The specific airline involved and the flight's destination were not revealed by the CAA.

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Related stories:

Solution for Fatigued Aviation Workers Eludes FAA

FAA Needs to Create Naptime-for-Pilots Rule

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