Friday, September 27, 2013

Asleep at the Switch

These are actors posing as pilots to make a point. 
Photo credit: Corbis/AOL
Today is Friday, September 27, 2013. 

Have you flown to an international destination lately?  Have you flown on a British airliner?  If you have, you may be putting your life at risk.  ABC News reported yesterday that a pilot and co-pilot self-reported an incident to their airline and to the U.K.' s Civil Aviation Authority in which they both fell asleep at the same time for an unknown amount of time while the aircraft was on autopilot.  The incident occurred sometime in August 2013.

In case you think this is an isolated incident, when I did a bit of research into the matter, I got another article from AOL news, dated April 7, 2011, in which it was reported that the same thing happened – a pilot and co-pilot fell asleep at the same time.  Once again, the incident was self-reported, and once again, it was a British-based airline.  In both stories, the name of the airline was not disclosed, and neither were the names of the pilots.

In the earlier article, the blame was laid at the feet of the European Union because it wanted to increase flying hours of pilots from 900 hours to 1000 hours a year.  That's got to be an economic decision.  Money obviously talks, here.

Due to time zone changes on international flights, it is conceivable that a pilot could have as little as five hours of sleep in a period of time that includes two nights.   One British authority said in 2011 that tiredness accounted for 15 to 20 per cent of accidents.  According to the ABC News article in 2013, an investigation of an accident involving Air France, in which a plane crashed into the ocean, revealed that the pilot had only slept one hour the night before the flight.  All 229 people aboard that aircraft were killed.

I'm assuming that the pilots are self-reporting these incidents in line with the pilots' union policy of opposing more flight hours for pilots.  I just wish these incidents were not so hushed up - we need to know what airlines these incidents are on, so that passengers can complain and force the authorities to amend regulations in favor of pilot – and passenger – safety!  :-/

No comments: