Don't Be Alarmed By These Airline Pilots Falling Asleep at the Wheel

We learned today the good news that planes don't crash when pilots fall asleep or lose consciousness. But yeah, the news that pilots are falling asleep and or losing consciousness doesn't exactly have us itching for our next flight.  

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Thankfully, today's modern airplanes don't fall out of the sky if the pilot loses consciousness  but two stories in one day about commercial airline pilots falling asleep at the wheel, doesn't exactly have us itching for our next plane trip.  The first comes to us from the Netherlands where Dutch airline Transavia just announced that they've launched an investigation into a September flight from Greece to the Netherlands where a pilot was locked out of the cockpit and couldn't get back in because his co-pilot was asleep:

 After two and a half hours in the air the captain of the Dutch-registered plane left the cockpit to go to the toilet,' the OVV [the Dutch safety board] said.

'A little later he wanted to return to the cockpit. When he used the intercom to call the first officer to open the door he got no reaction.

'When he managed to get into the cockpit, he found the first officer asleep.'

So, for that moment with the pilot locked out and co-pilot no one flying the airplane could either be scary or a glorious moment in technology. Then a similar incident happened stateside on Thursday night, as the pilot of Alaska Airline Flight 473 from Los Angeles to Seattle lost consciousness and the flight had to be diverted to Portland. The AP reports:

The pilot lost consciousness "somewhere over Oregon," [spokesman Paul] McElroy said, then later regained consciousness and left the cockpit. A doctor on board the flight tended to him in the cabin until the plane landed and was met by medical personnel on the runway.

In the case, at least an actual human was able to sub in instead of the auto-pilot.

Photo by:  Carlos E. Santa Maria via Shutterstock.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.