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SierraHotel

Packed passenger plane was left flying on autopilot after BOTH pilots fell asleep in the cockpit!

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A packed passenger jet heading to the UK was left flying on autopilot when both pilots fell asleep at the controls, it emerged last night.

The terrifying incident happened last month on board an Airbus A330 operated by a British-based airline - but officials are refusing to name the company involved.

The pilots - who had apparently slept for just five hours each over the previous two nights - are not expected to face serious disciplinary action over the incident, which highlights the danger of fatigue on flights.

The Civil Aviation Authority revealed that the incident took place on August 13 shortly after the 325-seat plane had taken off, when the pilot and co-pilot agreed to take turn having short naps, leaving the plane on auto-pilot.

However, one of them woke up to discover that they had both been asleep at the same time, and did not know how long the plane had been unsupervised.

The pilots voluntarily reported the blunder to the CAA, which has hidden the name of the airline they work for in a bid to encourage other whistleblowers to speak out.

A spokesman for the regulator said: ‘I would be very surprised if any disciplinary action had been taken against these pilots.

 

‘Perhaps the airline in question may have looked at their rosta or shift system as a result.

‘In potentially critical safety situations like this, we aim to learn from what happened and ensure it will not happen again.’

He added: 'We don't know why the pilots had had so little sleep before this flight. They were taking it in turn to have rest periods, with the one always checking the autopilot and it looks as if both fell asleep at the same time.'


By law, airline bosses must report any potentially dangerous conduct to the industry regulator.

Virgin Atlantic, which operates a fleet of 10 A330 planes, refused to comment on whether or not the flight last month was a Virgin service.

A spokesman for the company said: 'Virgin Atlantic does not comment on reports released by the CAA as part of its confidential reporting system - the aim of which is to contribute to flight safety through sharing of information within the industry.

'Safety and security is the primary concern of Virgin Atlantic and matters such as these are taken extremely seriously by all airlines.'

Spokesmen for Thomas Cook Airlines and Monarch Airways, which each have three A330s, said that the plane involved did not belong to them.


Pilots' union Balpa said that it had repeatedly warned the CAA about the dangers of pilots feeling overly tired, and accused the regulator of being 'complacent' about the problem.

General secretary Jim McAuslan said: 'British pilots want to make every flight a safe flight and tiredness is the biggest challenge they face.

'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 problem of fatigue among pilots was revealed in a study by Balpa which showed that 45 per cent of the pilots surveyed had suffered from ‘significant fatigue’.

The figures revealed that about 20 per cent of pilots believe their performance is ‘compromised’ more than once a week.

Many pilots said they now have to fly more than regulation hours to deal with the volume of flights on offer from airlines.

Records show that two cockpit crew members fell asleep during a long-haul flight in 2011. One of the pilots was asleep for ten minutes while his co-pilot slept during his break.

In another case in 2012, a pilot was unable to gain entry to the cockpit and, after using an entry code to access the cockpit, found his first officer was asleep.

While nearly all such cases are resolved without any danger, fatigue has been blamed for high-profile aviation accidents in the past.

The pilot of an Air France flight which plunged into the ocean in 2009, killing all 228 people on board, had only one hour's sleep the night before, it emerged this year.


Rob Hunter, the head of safety at the British Airlines Pilots’ Association, told the Transport Select Committee last year that often pilots don’t complain about being tired because they are worried about being punished.

Balpa claims that new EU regulations on pilots' working hours set to be voted on next week could increase the risk of similar incidents by tiring out workers.

Pilots will be able to land an aircraft after going 22 hours without sleep, fly long-haul flights with fewer crew members and operate early-morning flights up to seven days in a row.

The union says the changes will 'increase tiredness among pilots and the risk of dangerous incidents'.

However, the CAA said today: 'We understand that Balpa are not happy with the proposals but we think overall it is a good package and not much different to what we have now.'

 

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Nobody would have known unless the pilots had reported it themselves. They could have just said there was a problem with the radio and they never heard ATC etc

 

What a bunch of plonkers

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AKA the Daily Wail. :smile:

 

Also know by some as the Daily Heil...heh, heh.

 

It would never have happened if Diana were here.

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Nobody would have known unless the pilots had reported it themselves. They could have just said there was a problem with the radio and they never heard ATC etc

 

What a bunch of plonkers

Who are you calling plonkers? The pilots who used the anonymous reporting system for the exact purpose it is intended, i.e. to allow people to come forward and report dangerous situations or incidents without fear of punishment?

Pilot fatigue is something pilot's unions have been complaining about for a while, and if these unions are to be believed the new EASA rules will make things worse.

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Who are you calling plonkers? The pilots who used the anonymous reporting system for the exact purpose it is intended, i.e. to allow people to come forward and report dangerous situations or incidents without fear of punishment?

Pilot fatigue is something pilot's unions have been complaining about for a while, and if these unions are to be believed the new EASA rules will make things worse.

 

If I don't feel well enough or alert enough to drive my car, which I need to do my job, then I don't drive. If I have been out working all the previous day, some of the night, early hours and then some of the morning then I go home. If my company want me to go elsewhere that day they get a big no from me....not that they would request that anyway as it breaches UK Health and Safety laws not to mention road traffic regulations. Safety comes first.

 

The pilots, if they did not have enough sleep and being as experienced as they are to know if they have had enough rest or not, should not have taken the risk to fly, stated to their boss BEFORE boarding the craft that they were not in a fit state to work and let their boss sort it out.

 

They get no appreciation from me for reporting it 'anonymously'. The very fact that they took the aircraft into air risking the lives of people on board the aircraft and on ground means they are indeed plonkers.

 

If I caused a crash in my car because I was tired and killed a family travelling in another vehicle would that make it OK because I was doing something my company had asked/told me to do?

 

If airline safety is a big concern, as it must be due to all the anti-terrorist measures that have needlessly been put into place, then any pilot must be completely free of any reprisal for speaking out if he/she is not fit enough to pilot the aircraft due to the airlines heavy workload for that pilot. Any airline that punishes said pilot should not be allowed to maintain a fleet/licence and publicly named so that passengers can avoid.

If the pilot can prove that he/she is being overworked by a demanding rota then it is for the airline company to resolve. Not board the aircraft and fly just because they are told to.

If the pilot is tired because he/she was up late in the casino/on the ale then that is their fault and they should be disciplined but they should still not take the aircraft into the air. Surely an airline pilot wants to land safely back on the ground and not risk their own life regardless of anyone elses?

 

Isn't that what safety is all about?

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Fair points, can agree with you on that. I thought you were calling them plonkers for 'turning themselves in' (as it were) rather than hushing it up.

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Hi.

 

SierraHotel, are you a journalist for the Daily Mail?

 

verbatim:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2432847/Both-pilots-asleep-cockpit-packed-plane-dont-worry-autopilot.html

 

Cheers,

D

Fair point. The OP should be careful of that little thing called "copyright infringement." The risk may be low, but Avsim would also be well advised to either delete the post or have the OP provide the appropriate attribution.

 

Damn lawyers.

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The Daily Mail won't sue him .......... they'll award a harsher and more painful penalty than a financial one;  they'll force a years subscription on him! :lol:

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The Daily Mail won't sue him .......... they'll award a harsher and more painful penalty than a financial one;  they'll force a years subscription on him! :lol:

 

They'll hire him as their 'aviation editor' praising his 'journalism' based on his post above....not realising its from their own paper.

 

Daily Mail=Daily Fail :lol:

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Happens a lot more than you think it does...

 

Sleeping pilots, or Daily Mail plaigerism?

 

:lol:

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Sleeping pilots, or Daily Mail plaigerism?

 

:lol:

 

Knowing the harshness of UK libel laws, and that the Daily Mail can probably afford a longer court case than most of us, probably best not to answer that question :P.

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The pilots, if they did not have enough sleep and being as experienced as they are to know if they have had enough rest or not, should not have taken the risk to fly, stated to their boss BEFORE boarding the craft that they were not in a fit state to work and let their boss sort it out.

 

It doesn't work that way, if it did there would be no need for working hour regulations in transport industry.

For many pilots there are two options, fly tired or get fired. If you disagree with the airline's schedule what prevents the airline from firing you and get someone else who is ready to fly tired to replace you? 

In the end the extreme competition between airlines, struggle to make profit and inadequate regulations are the things to blame, not pilots who either have to fly tired or lose their job.

 

I believe the schedules can often be so tight that you simply can't avoid flying fatigued. 

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It doesn't work that way, if it did there would be no need for working hour regulations in transport industry.

For many pilots there are two options, fly tired or get fired. If you disagree with the airline's schedule what prevents the airline from firing you and get someone else who is ready to fly tired to replace you? 

In the end the extreme competition between airlines, struggle to make profit and inadequate regulations are the things to blame, not pilots who either have to fly tired or lose their job.

 

I believe the schedules can often be so tight that you simply can't avoid flying fatigued.

 

Exactly, Graham has no idea what it is like operating in that kind of environment.

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I believe the schedules can often be so tight that you simply can't avoid flying fatigued. 

 

Which is down to airlines to manage. Hence why I mentioned that airlines that overload and pressure their staff should not be able to run an airline.

If that doesnt happen, which would be a government decision, then that would entail that any future airlines crashing because of overworked pilot error can be placed directly back at the government responsible.

Could you ever see that happening? I couldn't. It would be the pilots that would carry all of the blame as usual.

Money should never come before safety but we all know that each country in this world puts money before safety yet always preaches the former.

What a load of codswallop this world is and plonkers are those that run it.

For many pilots there are two options, fly tired or get fired.

 

If that is true then why all the anti-terrorism rubbish that is rammed in our face at the airports when, after being made to leave a bottle of water in a bin bag, you can board a plane that then contains a threat just as dangerous, from tired pilots and directly from the airline itself that is trying to maintain safety and minimise risks, as any supposed terrorist/device being onboard.

Exactly, Graham has no idea what it is like operating in that kind of environment.

 

Correct I don't. I've never worked nor want to work in anything related to the airport industry. Doesn't stop me having an opinion or expressing surprise at the double standards that governments and airlines impose when trying to make out they are concerned for passenger safety when all they are really doing is watching their profit margins and keeping their fingers crossed that each aircraft that leaves the ground safely lands back on the ground.

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If that is true then why all the anti-terrorism rubbish that is rammed in our face at the airports when, after being made to leave a bottle of water in a bin bag, you can board a plane that then contains a threat just as dangerous, from tired pilots and directly from the airline itself that is trying to maintain safety and minimise risks, as any supposed terrorist/device being onboard.

Well I don't think airport security stuff really costs airlines much money while not overworking their pilots would. I guess that anti-terrorism stuff is a good business to some companies anyway...

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Graham, all operators have clearly defined minimum rest for flight crew. Fatigue, unlike being under the influence of alcohol is much harder to define. You can have minimum rest or longer, be stuck in a hotel somewhere with a group of people next door up all night having a stag do.

 

To give you an example of a possible scenario here, crew was down route, didnt get a good nights sleep in the hotel, turned up to the airport tired but completely capable of operating an aircraft, 6 hours into cruise after dinner and the PF who is supposed to be still awake closes his eyes and drifts off. At departure I am sure the crew wouldn't have thought they would both drift off and definitely wouldn't have felt the need to call in sick whilst downroute.

 

Airlines try to keep to crew flying up to the max legal limit, its a business pure and simple. I have full respect for the flight crew, yes they could have kept quiet, instead they brought it to the attention of management and the exact circumstances can be investigated to minimise this sort of thing happening again.

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. I guess that anti-terrorism stuff is a good business to some companies anyway...

 

Without going OT....its one of the biggest cons of modern times along with green taxes (for substances so harmful to the environment that as long as you pay a lot of money you can keep using them....go figure).

 

Probably a discussion for another forum :rolleyes:

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Yup, as a society we are willing to spend vastly more money to prevent one death from an act of terrorism than to prevent a death from other causes. Far less money is being spent on fall prevention measures / research than on anti-terrorism for example, despite over 14,000 people dying as a result of falls in the US each year.

 

Without going OT....its one of the biggest cons of modern times along with green taxes (for substances so harmful to the environment that as long as you pay a lot of money you can keep using them....go figure).

 

Probably a discussion for another forum :rolleyes:

 

Hopefully not taking a political turn here, but the idea behind green taxes (in economic theory, if not in actual implementation) is not that they make the environmental harm go away, but that they offset externalities. Externalities being costs to third parties not directly involved in a business transaction.

E.g. you buy a new car from a factory that uses toxic chemicals and dumps waste in a river. This creates costs for the people downstream of the factory, who have to build a new water purification plant. These people are not involved in the deal between you and the factory, but do incur costs. A green tax on the factory could be used to pay for the new water purification plant, thus offsetting the externalities incurred by the down-river people.

Note this is probably not the best way to solve this particular scenario, but I hope it is a clear example of the economic theory behind using (green) taxes to offset externalities. Whether green taxes are actually properly implemented this way in practise is of course another matter, and as you say a discussion for a different forum.

Green taxes (again in theory at least) can also be used to reduce the price advantage of using less environmentally friendly options, allowing more environmentally friendly alternatives to grow sufficiently for economies of scale to bring the price down.

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