Insta-CoGo: Drowsy Pilots in the Cockpit?
Let's file this one under "things you'd probably rather not know."
According to a report in USA Today, "Two airline pilots fell asleep while cruising over Hawaii last February, flying past their destination toward open ocean for 18 minutes before waking up and returning for a safe landing." The incident was revealed by the National Transportation Safety Board, which said it highlights the problem of pilots spending too many hours in the cockpit.
According to the story, which cited NTSB records, crashes linked to fatigue have killed 249 people since 1997. Currently, pilots are allowed to work 16 hours a day, including up to eight hours behind the controls. The agency is trying to rewrite the rules regarding the number of hours a pilot can work, but the airlines and pilot groups have been fighting it.
Let's review: a 16-hour workday. Piloting a plane for half the time. With you and me in it. You ever drive eight hours after being at behind a desk for eight hours? Isn't easy, is it?
According to the story, "The two pilots had been flying together for three arduous days. . . . Since the incident, the captain had been diagnosed with severe obstructive sleep apnea . . .Apnea causes people to repeatedly wake up during the night and has been linked to poor work performance and accidents."
So the pilot has apnea. Why doesn't that make me feel better? Maybe I'll start carrying a drumset on board to keep the pilots awake . . . if I can get it through security.
(Coming and Going, or CoGo, is the Travel section's weekly consumer column. For a look at last week's column, click here.)
By John Deiner |
June 11, 2008; 10:24 AM ET
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