My favorite part of flying is the takeoff, and it goes from that to the leveling out segment, and then the landing. I love to fly and am not nervous about it at all. But when I read this report of commercial pilots being sound asleep as they approached Denver in an Airbus jet, inwardly I yelped. What? How could this be?
A pair of commercial pilots fell asleep in the cockpit on their way to Denver in 2004 and sped toward the airport at twice the speed allowed, according to an anonymous report by the captain on a federal safety Web site.The unnamed pilot of the “red eye” flight said he woke up to frantic calls from air traffic controllers and landed without a problem.
(I snapped this picture recently on my return trip from Portland. I believe we were ready to land at Sacramento here.)
The ASRS self-reporting site reveals details of the harrowing near disaster.
A commercial pilot had recently switched schedules to flying three “red eyes” in a row between Denver and Baltimore with only one hour in between flights. On March 4, 2004, during the third late-night flight, the pilot and his first officer were approaching Denver in an A319 Airbus jet — about the size of a Boeing 737 — and they were fast asleep.
“LAST 45 MINS OF FLT I FELL ASLEEP AND SO DID THE FO,” or first officer, a one-paragraph report in a NASA-run public reporting system says.
“MISSED ALL CALLS FROM ATC (air-traffic controller),” the report continues, saying that the plane was supposed to be traveling at less than 290 mph, but they were moving at a clip of about 590 mph.
“I WOKE UP, WHY I DON’T KNOW, AND HEARD FRANTIC CALLS FROM ATC. … I ANSWERED ATC AND ABIDED BY ALL INSTRUCTIONS TO GET DOWN. WOKE FO UP,” the report says, adding that he then followed all the controller’s instructions, “AND LANDED WITH NO FURTHER INCIDENTS.”
Unbelievable, I say. Makes me slightly less confidence about boarding those beautiful birds and plunging into the sky.
(Approaching Las Vegas on Southwest Airlines plane.)