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Both Airbus A330 Pilots Fall Asleep Mid-Flight at the Same Time, Prompting Terrorism Fears

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain sleeping.” A commercial flight from New York, U.S., to Rome, Italy, brought on serious behind-the-scenes drama, as both pilots fell asleep at the same time while cruising over France.
Both pilots onboard an Airbus A330-200 from ITA Airways fell asleep at the same time, sparking hijacking fears 12 photos
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On long-haul flights, it’s not uncommon for the two pilots to take what is known as “controlled rest periods,” which are basically power naps. However, certain conditions have to be met, and, as The Drive points out, the most important is that only one can sleep at any given time: the other must stay awake to monitor the aircraft, even if it’s on autopilot.

On this particular ITA Airways Flight from early May, the pilots of the Airbus A330-200 fell asleep at the same time. Only the first officer had been cleared for the nap, and the pilot reportedly dozed off when he should have been on duty. This could have been a “none the wiser” type of situation had not air traffic control in Marseilles tried to contact the airplane.

As the aircraft entered into French airspace, Marseilles tried to contact the pilot but got no response. After several failed attempts, France warned Italy of a possible hijack attempt and alerted the military to dispatch fighter jets for a fly-by that would confirm whether that was really the case. However, before the fighter jets got to take-off, the pilot onboard the ITA Airways plane woke up and responded to ground control calls.

The captain was fired, though ITA Airways insisted that “passenger safety was not compromised” because “the flight was on autopilot, flying at normal speed and altitude and never detoured from its route.” That much is true since the plane landed in Rome without incident – actually, it arrived 20 minutes earlier than scheduled.

Still, this was a breach of protocol. The captain tried to save his job by alleging a malfunction with the communications system, but a subsequent investigation could find nothing to back that up.

Editor's note: Photos in the gallery show Condor's vacation-themed Airbus A330neo fleet.

 
 
 
 
 

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