50% of pilots confess to falling asleep flying a plane

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Pilots fall asleep at the wheel more often than you'd think…

Plane in the sky
If you are scared of flying you should turn away now, as nearly one in three pilots confess to waking up to find their co-pilot asleep while in charge of a plane.

In a survey of 500 commercial pilots, 84 per cent said they felt their ability to fly had been compromised by tiredness during the last six months. 56 per cent admitted to being asleep while on the flight deck and, of those, nearly one in three said they had woken up to find their co-pilot also asleep.

The findings from the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) revealed that only 51 per cent felt they could speak out if they felt there were too tired to fly.

The shocking stats coincide with two pilots admitting to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) that they both fell asleep in the cockpit at the same time during a long-haul flight to the UK.

In charge of a 325-seat Airbus A330, the co-pilots confessed they were both asleep at the same time, leaving the plane to cruise unchecked on autopilot. Both the crew members said they were suffering from severe fatigue after only having five hours sleep a night for the previous two nights.

The debate around flight safety comes as the European Parliament vote today on whether to change the rules on flying hours within the EU – which could see pilots working up to seven starts in a row and possibly being awake for 22 hours at a time.

Jim McAuslan, General Secretary of BALPA, said, 'Tiredness is already a major challenge for pilots who are deeply concerned that unscientific new EU rules will cut UK standards and lead to increased levels of tiredness, which has been shown to be a major contributory factor in air accidents.'

However The Civil Aviation Agency, Britain's aviation regulator, dismissed worries about the new rules, 'We think the new European flight time limitation regulations maintain the UK's current high safety levels, and will actually increase safety for UK passengers travelling on some other European airlines,' it said in a statement.

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