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Home > Air Safety > Did the pilots fall asleep?
Did the pilots fall asleep?
Aviation - Air Safety
Monday, 17 March 2008 04:57

Hello Captain Lim,

As you may have heard, the FAA is investigating whether two pilots for "go!" airlines (a regional airline serving the Hawaiian Islands) fell asleep on a short flight this past February from Honolulu to Hilo.

Hi Brendan,

Yes, I read that both the pilots were sleeping on the job! According to the NTSB preliminary investigation report, the two pilots probably fell asleep for the short period when the controller was trying to contact them.

Of course, when such a scenario arises, it may give rise to suspicions similar to those seen in the Helios case - pilots incapacitated due to hypoxia (lack of oxygen) in flight (see here). That was why the NTSB report stated that there were no problems with the pressurization system or carbon monoxide in the plane.

An experienced flight attendant may realize something was not right but in this flight, (she was the only crew in the cabin) she may be very busy attending to the 40 passengers on the Bombardier CRJ-200 plane. Some airlines have a policy whereby the flight attendants are required to contact the cockpit now and then to make sure everything is okay with the pilots. On more sophisticated planes like the Boeing 777, the in-flight computers would sound an aural warning (to wake up the pilots) if no activity is sensed inside the cockpit for the last 15 minutes!

As for the ATC, the normal protocol is that they would try all means to contact the plane. Normally the plane would be tracked on radar as a blip as they are equipped with transponders. As such, they would not alert the search and rescue emergency services yet. Finally, after about 32 minutes into the flight, contact was established with the plane and it landed safely without further incident.

Meanwhile the airline has grounded both the pilots as investigation continues. If the investigation showed that the pilots did fall asleep while the plane was on autopilot, the normal FAA penalties would range from a warning letter to license suspension or revocation.

The Sleepy Pilot


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Another such incident in air india
Dear Captain Lim

Did the air india pilots really fall asleep. They claim there was a communication problem.

From the news

This has to be one of the most bizarre of airscare incidents in recent times - a plane overshooting its destination because the pilots fell asleep!

An Air India Dubai-Jaipur-Mumbai flight flew well past its destination as both pilots were fatigued and were fast asleep with the aircraft on autopilot.

When the pilots were finally woken up by anxious Mumbai Air Traffic Controllers, the plane was about half way to Goa.

farook , 27 Jun, 2008
I'm flying Air. India next month...from JFK to New Dehli...should I worry? I haven't read good reviews of this airline...I'm afraid to fly as it is.....any comments?
Deborah Hofsoy , 30 Jun, 2008
Dear Captain Lim

May I know the reason why flight from and to on the same destination vary in flying time.
My husband said that if we follow the turning of the earth the flying time will be the correct time frame and against the turning result in taking longer to reach the destination.
I thought that the longer time to fly because of the head wind whereas if we fly along the tail wind we reach our destination on time.

we are betting..I hope I win
Thank you
irene , 12 Sep, 2010
Flying Time
Hi Irene,

You have won the bet!

I have answered this question in one in-flight magazine. I reproduce it below:

Why do some flights take longer to fly one direction on a route than it does returning in the opposite direction?

"You may be flying on an Airbus A340 whilst reading this article and yes, your cruising speed would probably be around 475 knots now. If you are a frequent traveler, you may notice on some days, it takes 13 ½ hours to fly from Kuala Lumpur to London and only 12 ½ hours to return home.

Why is this so? Very simple indeed! This is due to the strong westerly winds or jet streams which can be up to 150 knots or more in strength. During the winter seasons, there are always headwinds blowing against the plane. It is just like walking against a walkalator at the airport. If you want to go faster, get on the walkalator that is going the direction you are heading!

So when flying to London, one is usually affected by headwind and on the return flight; you have the benefit of a tailwind. It is indeed true that you can save up to one hour on the way home! Hence, planes normally arrive earlier than scheduled from London."
Captain Lim , 12 Sep, 2010
Clean Singapore
Is there any of Singapore Airlines that don't serve alcohol?
Dan , 07 Jan, 2011

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