UK & World News
Pilots Fell Asleep At Controls At Same Time
A pilots' organisation says a case of two pilots falling asleep at the same time shows why EU changes to flight-time rules are "dangerous".
In a report to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), a pilot revealed that he and his co-pilot nodded off on the Airbus passenger jet while the aircraft was on autopilot last month.
The pilot said both had only five hours' sleep the previous two nights.
A CAA spokesman said: "This was a serious incident but an isolated one. I think lessons will be learnt from this. We are circulating this report within the industry.
"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."
But UK pilots' organisation Balpa said the incident "comes as no surprise", adding that it had "repeatedly warned the CAA of the risk of both pilots falling asleep, including in a letter to each member of the CAA board last year".
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 under-reported problem.
"In fact, the CAA and Government are backing EU cuts to UK flight safety that will increase tiredness among pilots and the risk of dangerous incidents."
Balpa says the planned EU flight rules will have a "grave impact" on aviation safety as the proposals are "flawed in many areas".
The proposed regulations would see pilots being legally allowed to land an aircraft after being awake for 22 hours.
They would also mean pilots can operate longer-haul flights - such as from the UK to the US west coast - with only two crew rather than the current three.
The proposals would also see pilots working up to seven early starts in a row.
A news agency found out about the pilots falling alseep after asking the CAA for incidents of pilot fatigue.
The CAA did not say which airline was involved nor where the aircraft, an Airbus A330, was travelling.
Of the proposed EU changes, the CAA said: "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."