Last Saturday at around 11 p.m. CST, I was somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean heading to Munich to attend inter airport. While I never sleep at all on these long flights, I bet both my pilots did - at the same time.
In case you didn’t hear, a survey released two weeks of 500 commercial pilots found that one in six has woken up on the flight deck to find their co-pilot snoozing.
But hang on. According to the British Airline Pilots Association, the real danger is that pilots are not sleeping enough.
"No aircraft in the history of aviation has crashed because a pilot has gone to sleep at the controls," says David Learmount, a former RAF Hercules pilot and safety editor at trade magazine Flight Global told The Guardian, a British daily newspaper. "It's never happened. On the other hand, crashes that have resulted from fatigue? There are many, many, many of those."
BALPA commissioned the survey ahead of a European parliament vote on new EU regulations for pilots' flying hours. It argues that in certain circumstances, under the proposed new rules, pilots could be expected to land planes after 24 hours without sleep. The trade group says the resulting level of fatigue would be equivalent to being four times over a pilot's legal alcohol limit.
"Fatigue," explained Learmount, "has an effect on anybody who suffers from it, the symptoms of which are remarkably like drunkenness. Your decisions are worse and your coordination is worse."
So a sleeping pilot is not as much of a threat as you’d think.
One way or another, I’ll be on hand for the big show, Oct. 8-11. If you’ll be there, too, plan on stopping by our booth, Hall B-5, No. 1670.