This is your captain sleeping, and co-pilot too

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 September, 2013, 1:41pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 September, 2013, 3:21am

Two pilots on a British airliner on a long-haul flight fell asleep in the cockpit, leaving the packed jet travelling unsupervised on autopilot, Britain's Sun newspaper reported.

One of the pilots on board the Airbus 330 flight to Britain eventually woke up and roused his colleague, but neither knew how long they had been asleep, the paper said. The name of the airline has not been disclosed.

The flight took off on August 13 and the pilot and co-pilot took turns to have 20-minute rests but, after flying for more than an hour, they both dropped off.

They reported the incident themselves to Britain's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), blaming longer shifts during the summer holiday period.

The Sun said it had seen a copy of their report.

The CAA said it was legally prevented from disclosing details about companies or individuals who filed mandatory occurrence reports.

"Fatigue is a serious issue and needs careful oversight, which is why we welcome new EU proposals to give regulators greater powers to oversee airlines' fatigue risk management systems and data," a CAA spokesman said.

A survey for the British Airline Pilots' Association found that 56 per cent of the 500 pilots surveyed said they had fallen asleep on the flight deck and 29 per cent of those said they awoke to find the other pilot sleeping, the union said.

About half of those surveyed rated pilot fatigue as the biggest threat to flight safety.

The European Parliament is set to consider proposals from the European Aviation Safety Agency to amend rules on flight- time limitations as it seeks to end years of wrangling between airlines and the flight crew over the terms.

Airlines have been seeking greater flexibility in their use of crew, but pilots say a relaxation of existing standards would jeopardise safety.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg