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SAS pilot fell asleep in the cockpit

TT/The Local/dl · 3 Feb 2011, 10:03

Published: 03 Feb 2011 10:03 GMT+01:00

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For a time, that plane's autopilot played a pivotal role in keeping the fully-booked flight between the two Scandinavian capitals on course, the Aftonbladet newspaper reports.

"I was extremely tired and had to fight to keep my eyes open," the captain wrote in a report reviewed by the Norwegian newspaper VG, citied by Aftonbladet.

However, the sleep deprived-pilot lost the battle to stay awake after his co-pilot left the cockpit to go to the toilet.

When the co-pilot attempted to return, he was forced to buzz the locked cockpit door repeatedly before the pilot woke up and let him in.

In explaining the incident, which took place last year, the captain said he had had less than four hours of sleep. The Copenhagen to Stockholm flight was his fourth of a scheduled five flights he was to pilot that day.

Story continues below…

A manager at SAS told VG that, while having a pilot fall asleep midflight is unusual, the airline wasn't planning to take any disciplinary measures against the pilot.

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

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Your comments about this article

11:16 February 3, 2011 by johnny 2011
SAS is probably cheeping out w/ pilots. Take offs and landings several times a day is very exhausting more so than long haul flights. Sharpen up SAS before you have a disaster that would be more costly than hiring more pilots!!
11:24 February 3, 2011 by VicTaulic

I can see that happening on a New York to Stockholm flight, but from Copenhagen? What's that- an hour flight tops?
12:40 February 3, 2011 by Luckystrike
Tattletale of a co-pilot, hoping for the sleepy, over worked Captain to be sacked so he can get a promotion to Captain i bet.
12:45 February 3, 2011 by Rishonim
Agree with Vic here. Too short of a flight to fall asleep.
13:07 February 3, 2011 by Danne8
I wonder why SAS would let this information out on the media... could it have been passengers that saw this happening? or maybe the people on the radio trying to reach the captain... but either way, it would be very unlikely that internal employees would let this information out...
13:10 February 3, 2011 by Beavis
" the airline wasn't planning to take any disciplinary measures against the pilot" Typical SAS response, Europes worst airline by a long shot. Im surprised their response wasnt "These things happen."
13:15 February 3, 2011 by karex
Disciplinary actions may in turn trigger questions like why is the company overworking employees who are critical to safety? Is it even legal for flight crews to work more than a certain number of hours and not have enough resting time between shifts?

They probably figure that it's better to leave the pilot alone so they don't work themselves into a difficult situation...
13:29 February 3, 2011 by wolverine2k
come on.. the only time I use manual flight controls is during takeoff and landing. For the rest of the journey, I put my autopilot on and then follow GPS routes (if flying VFR) or do minute changes to altitude and heading (if flying IFR). And I do get a lot of sleep during those clumsy boring hours (except when I have to have a nice chat with my flight attendant in the back)... :)
13:43 February 3, 2011 by BrittInSweden
Who cares?

Pilots take off and land and they don't even need to do that at the bigger airports.

Auto pilot is active on most flights most of the time. The flight was in as much danger as any other flight.
15:23 February 3, 2011 by Rick Methven
If he was on the 4th leg of a 5 sector day he was most probably doing just CPH-ARN-CPH and by the time he fell asleep he would have been on duty about 9 hours since he signed in 60 minutes before the first flight.

He must have had a minimum of 8 hours at home or in a hotel from the previous days shift. so what was he up to that resulted in only 4 hours sleep and made him fall asleep after being on duty for only 9 hours????
20:50 February 3, 2011 by Andersonville
I don't think it matters how short the flight is if you're dog tired. I feel for the pilot, but I'm still scared. No passenger , or potential customers wants to hear this nonsense. What is SAS thinking?
20:54 February 3, 2011 by mojofat
Well, you know...when you're starting to sober up one does tend to get sleepy.
21:43 February 3, 2011 by mikewhite
"This flight sponsored by Red Bull and Starbucks ..."

Still, better to take a "power nap" so you are at your best for the crucial descent and landing.
01:32 February 4, 2011 by Da Goat
Its not unusual to have a sleep while piloting and they are allowed to, it is just the second officer was locked out was the problem. the auto control was doing the work.

if the pilot had a cardiac and died would have been a bit to worry about though!

I think it is they are allowed to sleep if there is another officer awake!
02:46 February 4, 2011 by redtag501
Betcha he wouldn't have fallen asleep as a Piedmont Airlines pilot back in the 1960s flying a Martin 404 from Cincinnati, OH to Myrtle Beach, SC with stops at Charleston, WV, Bluefield, WV, Roanoke, VA, Greensboro-High Point, NC, Raleigh-Durham, NC and Fayetteville, NC departing around 0730 AM and arriving sometime around 17:00 PM. That was REAL, hands-on flying in those days, particularly in the summertime, bouncing around at 6000-8000 feet in and around thermals, puffy cumulus, high humidity and temps in the 80s-90s F. Very challenging, too, at mountaintop airports like Charleston and Bluefield. That kept the pilots on their toes. No reports of fatigue back then that I can recall.
10:39 February 4, 2011 by mikewhite
Yes, we no longer have to catch our own food either, now.
20:59 February 4, 2011 by wakak
When you think of it, this reaction is typical of the way Swedish people raise their children and leaders manage their teams. Your kids/employees can behave as badly as they want, nobody will tell them anything, it might be too harsh for them. Poor little things... So let the poor pilot wake up (after a good night sleep), come back to work, and next time kill 100 people.
03:13 February 5, 2011 by soultraveler3
I'm with Rick on this one. If the guy knew he was scheduled for a full day of flying what was he doing the night before, that he only had 4 hours sleep?

I can see geabbing some rest on a 12+ hour flight if the co-pilot was awake, but hopping back and forth a few times between CPH & ARN is strage. That's around the time of an average work shift.

He should've planned his night before better or if it was something out of his control (sickness or children etc.) he should've called in and explained the situation or just called in sick. That's easy enough to do in Sweden.
09:35 February 5, 2011 by Rick Methven
The discussion of this story by Professionals on pprune.org has lead to the subject of really being able to get a good nights sleep especially if it is in a hotel during a night stop.
23:17 February 5, 2011 by omencalmen
Passengers didn't show up looking like street thugs, dressing like slobs and paying $35 for a ticket from Chicago to Miami, either.
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