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Half of Swedish pilots fall asleep in the cockpit

Half of Swedish pilots fall asleep in the cockpit

Published: 19 Oct 2011 10:20 GMT+02:00
Updated: 19 Oct 2011 10:20 GMT+02:00

More than half the pilots in the Swedish Airline Pilots' Association (Svensk pilotförening, SPF) admit to having fallen asleep during flights, according to a new independent study.

The study, which included responses from 625 pilots working at all the different airlines in Sweden, also found that 70 percent of them admitted to having made mistakes caused by tiredness, the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper reported.

In addition, 80 percent of Swedish pilots reported that existing work hour rules "constitute a threat to flight safety".

According to current EU regulations, a pilot is allowed to work shifts as lengthy as 13 hours, sometimes with two additional hours of overtime.

"These results are alarming and we're naturally very concerned," said Mattias Kling, coordinator for work hour issues at the SPF.

"We can't accept that half the pilots have fallen asleep in the cockpit."

And despite the alarming study, there’s a proposition to extend allowed the length of pilot shifts to 16 hours.

“A pilot on duty also needs to get to the airport which often takes time. Then add to that 16 hours of continuous work. Is it safe to fly with that pilot?” Kling told TT.

Kling doesn’t want to comment on the risk this poses to passengers, but he’s not happy with current regulations, and pilots now demand that these be based on scientific findings.

“If you don’t have scientific facts you need to practice the precautionary principle,” Kling said.

“You have to be certain what the rules you impose mean. That’s the message we want to get across.”

TT/The Local/jl (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

11:51 October 19, 2011 by darky
They shoud drink enough coffee. No sleep as it also gives them inspiration. lol
13:35 October 19, 2011 by Keith #5083
Thank goodness I fly Ryanair where the desperate urge to go to a non-existent toilet keeps them awake
13:53 October 19, 2011 by Opinionfool
I would never ever fly Ryanair---they discriminate against disabled people!

That said, just how serious is this in a normal commercial long haul flight. The flight crew will have dialled in the auto-pilot data after which point they are passengers like the rest of us. The plane will continue to fly on that course until either the crew switch auto-pilot off or the airframe runs out of fuel.

There are sufficient alarms to wake them up in the event of an emergency. Some pilots say there are too many alarms to go off in the cockpit. Several major air disasters have been occasioned by cognitive overload of the pilots as they can't prioritorise the alarms sensibly.

Having human crew seemingly in control (that is seen to be awake) is a sop to the passengers. We believe that a human needs to be in control and gives a false sense of safety. Personally I would rather have a pilot awake in control of the dangerous portions of the flight , i.e. take off and landing, than force them to remain awake just for form's sake. Have them fresh and alert when it truly matters.
14:53 October 19, 2011 by Great Scott
You will find that this figure is nothing new and applies to most pilots around the world.

However what is disturbing is the high number of Swedish Politian's that fall asleep while on the job.
15:37 October 19, 2011 by jack sprat
No great surprise, coming as they do from the land of nod.

With any luck at all one of these days I'll buy a ticket to London and end up somewhere on the Med..
17:40 October 19, 2011 by skogsbo
apart from 10 mins at either end, long haul flights are just buses in the sky, only safer and easier to keep on the right route. Everything is automated, humans are only on modern planes to overide the computer should something out of the ordinary happen. Most modern planes could land themselves too these days.

Truck drivers from the continent pushing their hours, falling asleep at the wheel are a far greater hazard.
17:55 October 19, 2011 by Opinionfool
@skogsbo

Too damn right! And not just "from the continent" local truck drivers are as guilty off working (being forced to work) long hours beyond what is safe for them and for us.
18:01 October 19, 2011 by Grokh
we can blame the pilot for jeopardizing the lives of its passengers or we can blame the airliners for making pilots work like ants.

i blame both
19:09 October 19, 2011 by Opinionfool
@grokh

We should blame ourselves too for that mistaken belief we are safer because wewant a human being in the cockpit awake at all times.g
19:47 October 19, 2011 by HYBRED
Half fall asleep, and the other half are probably kickin back having a cigarette. What do you think they been doing?
20:40 October 19, 2011 by skogsbo
hybred, the other half are probably down inside the tiny crew cabin with one of the stewards/esses! ;)

Most jets fly with at least 2 pilots, some 3, 50% asleep leaves 1 or 2 awake - thus no news story. :)
06:55 October 20, 2011 by Da Goat
I am totally happy if half the pilots fall asleep, however if the other half fall asleep then I would worry a bit!
08:26 October 20, 2011 by Rick Methven
This is just another try by SAS pilots, who are the vast majority of the SPF members, to reduce the hours that they have to spend sitting on their fat wallets. The maximum hours that it is legally permitted to fly is never reached. The maximum number of sectors within a shift usually ensures that. A limit of 4 sectors keeps the duty hours down.

The pilots unions of the legacy carriers like SAS BA etc always want to fly less hours so that the Airlines will have to employ more pilots which mean more members for the unions. In my 45 years in the business, I have seen it again and again.
20:27 October 21, 2011 by johan rebel
What kind of "study" is this? Sounds more like the union sent out a questionnaire to get the answers they wanted, knowing that it would be easy to get the dumb media to jump on their bandwagon.

If pilots falling a sleep as a result of having to work too hard and long was such a big issue, this would be reflected in accident statistics.

These overpaid pilots just want work even less hours for their money. The average longhaul pilot spends 3½ hours per year acutally flying hands-on, the rest of the time the aircraft is on autopilot. No wonder they have plenty of time to take naps.
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