5. Pilots Sometimes Snooze on the Job
It’s kind of unnerving to think that your pilot might be literally asleep at the switch, but flight crew can and do nod off on long flights. American airspace doesn’t permit this practice, but British Airways, Qantas, Air France and many other airlines do allow pilots to catnap in the cockpit on long haul flights. This is only allowed when two pilots are present on the flight-deck, so one alert professional should be at the controls even if the plane is on autopilot. But even if it isn’t officially sanctioned, it does happen. In 2009, Northwest Airlines 188 overshot its landing by 150 miles because, it is suspected, both pilots were fast asleep and didn’t answer air traffic control’s frantic calls. Pilot fatigue is a growing concern, as many are feeling worn out by overwork. One BALPA study reported 45 percent of pilots have suffered from “significant fatigue” that could affect their reaction time. Another National Sleep Foundation poll of commercial pilots found that one fifth of the respondents admitted to making a serious safety error because of sleepiness. Maybe a controlled “restorative rest” now and then isn’t such a bad thing.