Both Pilots Fall Asleep at the Wheel 36,000 Feet in the Air

( – Two Indonesian commercial pilots are suspended after they both fell asleep in the cockpit during a Batik Air flight from the city of Kendari to Jakarta. The incident took place on January 25th aboard an aircraft carrying 153 people.

Air traffic control noticed the plane had veered off course and called the cockpit, along with other pilots who were in the air. The captain awoke after about a half hour and noticed the second-in-command was also sleeping, and that the plane was not on its intended course. The captain apparently told air traffic control that there had been a “radio communication problem” which was quickly resolved. The flight returned to its course and landed in Jakarta without injuries to passengers or damage to the plane.

While both pilots—who remain unnamed—appear to have had the regulation amount of rest hours before the flight, the captain requested his half-hour rest period during the first leg of the flight. When the captain awoke, he asked the co-pilot if he wanted to take his rest break, but the co-pilot declined. The captain returned to napping.

About 20 minutes later, however, the co-pilot also fell asleep while the plane was cruising at 36,000 feet.

The Indonesian official incident report states the captain had logged 35 hours of rest time before the flight, while the co-pilot had logged 53 hours. But the co-pilot had apparently told the captain that his rest period had not been high-quality as he had experienced broken sleep due to having to care for his newborn twin babies overnight.

Indonesia’s Safety Board said pilots have checklists to follow that make them evaluate their state of alertness, their emotions, medications, the amount of rest they’ve had, and other factors affecting their ability to fly safely. However, the Board recommends Batik Air update and enhance its checklists to prevent such incidents from happening again.

The incident report cites a “lack of detailed guidance and procedure” could have prevented the pilots from properly evaluating their fitness. This lack may also have prevented the cockpit from being checked every half hour as airline policy requires.

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