Three Airline Pilot Stories You Won't Soon Forget

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Mid-flight scare: A JetBlue pilot’s meltdown

Sleeping Pilots

Don’t be too alarmed by a column in the Trentonian titled, “Airline pilots routinely fall asleep at the controls” since two pilots are required in airline cockpits. But wait, there’s more: According to a poll by the British Airline Pilots’ Association, sometimes both nap at the same time!

  • “56% of pilots admit to having fallen asleep on the flight deck and, even more worryingly, of those who admitted this nearly 1 in 3 (29%) said they woke to find the other pilot asleep.” —from the BAPA poll

Good news: Pilots in the U.S. will soon get more sleep thanks to new FAA rules. As former US Airways pilot Chesley Sullenberger wrote (and this is the man who performed the amazing landing called the Miracle of the Hudson), “The rules [to be implemented in January] set a 10-hour minimum rest period before flight duty, a two-hour increase from the previous standards. This gives pilots a chance to get eight hours of sleep before a duty period instead of the five or six hours they so often get now.”

Pilot fatigue: Worst incidents

Near-miss Pilots

An investigation into a June incident where two 747s “came close” to colliding over Scotland has wrapped up, but the big mystery remains – how could it have happened? According to media reports, the two pairs of pilots (one set per jumbo jet) apparently obeyed the orders meant for the other set of pilots. As Sky News reported, “Investigators are at a loss to explain how the crews of both aircraft either misinterpreted or [misheard] their orders during the incident.”

Lasered Pilots

According to Quartz, pilots are now facing “record levels of attacks by laser pointers” and there’s nothing amusing about it. These green laser lights can temporarily blind pilots. No one has crashed a plane due to lasers but it’s serious enough to involve the FBI’s terrorism unit especially since incidents have jumped more than 1,000% since 2005. Anyone found using a laser pointer against a jet may themselves be hit – with an $11,000 fine.


Published: October 22, 2013