FAA investigates whether passenger flight crew fell asleep

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13 Responses to “FAA investigates whether passenger flight crew fell asleep”

  1. Lydia9 says:

    Oh! I know this one! When they landed, everyone’s watch was 25 minutes off and one of the passengers had gone missing. Yes? Yes?

  2. wil9000 says:

    This being true would not surprise me in the least, but I’d expect it more on long flights than short ones. Modern aircraft electronics do most of the work today anyway. Takeoff and landing are almost completely automated. (I actually think that landing is completely automated. Somebody find out for sure.) And once the destination is dialed into the flight computer, most of the cruising is automated. Pilots are highly paid because the job used to be incredibly stressful and, let’s face it, dangerous. But today, most of the hard work is done by electronics, with the flight crew acting basically as a “when everything else fails at once” backup system. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate them greatly, and I wouldn’t fly without them, but I can’t see a world in a hundred years where aircraft aren’t completely autonomous. Oh, I know I’m going to catch hell for this one. I’m wearing my flame-proof vest. Fire away!

  3. David Carroll says:

    I am kind of surprised Homeland Security didn’t have the CRJ-200 immediately shot out of the sky. What are we paying these people for anyway?

    Yes WIL 9000, this plane can land via autopilot, but requires a human to start the process otherwise it will continue to sail past the airport at 21,000 ft.

    Part of the problem is just that: Pilots have so little to do, and the turnarounds are tighter.

    Perhaps a couple of Wii consoles in the cockpit would keep them awake.

  4. knodi says:

    @2, I think you’re pretty much correct… Pilots have rare and incredibly useful skills, but planes are evolving pretty quickly, too. Of course there will always be a manual override, and there will always be situations where a brave and skilled pilot saved a plane-load of people from certain doom… But that’s happening less and less often.

    Currently, I don’t think takeoffs and landings are completely automated. I think a computer voice tells the pilot what to do and when to do it, but he retains discretion and control.

  5. lrgmnky says:

    Okay, a few things need to be straightened out:

    This particular aircraft, a CRJ-200, cannot land itself at all. Additionally, no commercial aircraft have an automated takeoff feature as it is not necessary. Although most commercial aircraft have autopilots, the computers that control them must be programmed and constantly manipulated by the pilots.

    These pilots did not fall asleep because they have little to do. Although aircraft have become more automated, the airspace they fly in has become more complex and congested. It could be argued that airline pilots have HIGHER workload than they did 40 years ago, when there was nearly no aircraft automation.

    The reason these pilots possibly fell asleep is twofold: First off, they are working under FAA rest requirements that have not been changed in decades. Rest requirements for flight crew members are far less restrictive than those of truck drivers, or any other transportation workers. Additionally, these pilots fly for go! Airlines. A subsidiary of Mesa Air Group, which is notorious for labor abuse, not too mention unfair trade practices. A quick Google will tell a reader everything they need to know Mesa Air Group and their actions.

  6. Ogre Lawless says:

    More here.

  7. Neuron says:

    That’s the time of day when people are the least sleepy. I couldn’t fall asleep at 10AM if my life depended on it.

  8. cha0tic says:

    #1 posted by Lydia9 , February 20, 2008 8:45 AM

    That’d be my guess as well Lydia.

  9. jphilby says:

    This is *Hawaii*. I’m going with the mile-high club explanation.

  10. Cefeida says:

    Wait, so the most logical explanation for not being able to contact any of the crew for half an hour is that they all somehow fell asleep?

    Safer bet that they were having an orgy in the cockpit. Or playing monopoly, whatever.

  11. bigboing says:

    I’m sorry, the link I provided has lapsed. A USA Today article is here:
    http://www.usatoday.com/travel/flights/2008-12-28-go-sleeping-pilots_N.htm
    or you can simply google “go pilot admit sleep”
    Did I mention that GO! is a crappy company subsidiary of the crappy Mesa Air?

  12. wil9000 says:

    Thanks for not flaming me. Where I recall hearing about automated planes, I think, was after 9/11, and there being systems in development that would make it possible to remove control of a plane from hijackers, and to fly the plane to an airport and land it automatically, basically an upgrade from the systems in place now. I heard this on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, if I recall correctly. The main point was that planes “almost” fly themselves right now, and that a few years down the road the role of pilots would be greatly reduced. Think about the autonomous drone aircraft like some versions of the Predator. Some of those are mostly autonomous, I think. Skynet, anyone?

  13. garys says:

    Good thing that cockpits now have steel reinforced doors so nobody disturbed them during their nap or other non-flight-related activities.

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