Are airline pilots asleep at the wheel?

No one likes to think about the possibility of airline pilots being asleep when they are 30,000 feet in the air, but the reality is…it happens; and it occurs more often than you think. Indeed, pilots are supposed to take short breaks (especially during coast-to-coast and transatlantic flights), and it is normal for them to take turns getting some shut-eye. But on one flight this summer, both pilots were asleep for an extended period of time.

According to a report produced by BBC News, the pilots were flying to London from the U.S. One pilot was waking up from his sleep break, and noticed that the other was fast asleep. Fortunately, the plane was on auto-pilot, but no one was awake to take control in the event of a malfunction or the arrival of bad weather.

The Civil Aviation Authority claims that it is rare that both pilots will asleep at the same time, but other pilots claim that this is a normal occurrence.

The story calls into question whether these pilots (or others in the airline industry) are adhering to federal hours of service regulations. Because pilot fatigue can lead to poor decisions (and possible crashes because of them) it is critical that pilots follow rules regarding how often they must rest between flights, and how many work hours may be involved during a particular week.

If an accident occurs because of pilot fatigue, it is likely that hours of service rules were broken, which may mean that the airline can be held liable. Consult an experienced attorney to learn more about an airline’s liability after an accident.

Source: BBC.co.uk, Pilots ‘asleep in cockpit’ as passenger plane on auto, September 23, 2013