A shocking report from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) reveals that a flight to the United Kingdom was left with no one awake at the controls, when both pilots fell asleep mid-flight. The Daily Mail reports that the incident took place on August 13, and involved a 325-seat Airbus A330, operated by a British-based airline. (The CAA did not name the airline.)
According to the report, the pilots turned themselves in to the CAA, possibly in a bid to draw attention to the problem of pilot fatigue. The pilots involved had reportedly only slept for five hours each over the previous two nights. Shortly after takeoff, the two had allegedly agreed to take turns having a short nap—however, one of them woke up to find that the other was sleeping. Neither knew how long the plane had been flying unsupervised on autopilot.
A spokesman for the CAA told the Daily Mail, “I would be very surprised if any disciplinary action had been taken against these pilots… Perhaps the airline in question may have looked at their roster or shift system as a result… In potentially critical safety situations like this, we aim to learn from what happened and ensure it will not happen again. We don’t know why the pilots had had so little sleep before this flight. They were taking it in turn to have rest periods, with the one always checking the autopilot and it looks as if both fell asleep at the same time.”