Majority of pilots admit they have fallen asleep in the cockpit

Poll also finds 49 per cent of flight-deck crew believe tiredness to be biggest threat to safety

More than half of pilots have fallen asleep on the flight deck, according to a survey by pilots’ union Balpa.

The poll showed that of the 56 per cent who admitted nodding off, as many as 29 per cent said they awoke to find the other pilot asleep.

And of the 500 commercial pilots polled, 43 per cent said they believed their abilities had been compromised at least once a month in the last six months by tiredness, with 84 per cent saying it has been compromised at some stage during the past six months.

Also, 31 per cent did not believe their airline had a culture that lent itself to reporting tiredness concerns, with only half (51 per cent) saying they believed their airline chief executive would back them if they refused to fly because of tiredness. Unprompted, 49 per cent said pilot tiredness was the biggest threat to flight safety – three times more than any other threat.

The poll came after it was reported that both pilots on an Airbus passenger plane were asleep at the same time, with the UK-operated  aircraft flying on autopilot.

One of the pilots indicated in a report to the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) that the pair nodded off after both had only five hours sleep in the previous two nights.

Details of the incident, which  occurred on August 13, were obtained by a news agency which had asked for incidents of pilot fatigue.

A CAA spokesman said: “This was a serious incident but an isolated one. I think lessons will be learnt from this. We are circulating this report within the industry.

“We don’t know why the pilots had had so little sleep before this flight. They were taking it in turn to have rest periods, with the one always checking the autopilot and it looks as if both fell asleep at the same time.”

The news emerged ahead of a European Parliament vote on new EU rules on pilot flying hours next Monday.

Balpa believes the new regulations will cut UK safety standards. The union wants MEPs voting on  Monday to back a motion that would require the European Commission to withdraw its proposals and to  subject them to proper scientific and medical scrutiny.

Balpa general secretary Jim McAuslan said: “Making every flight a safe flight is the number one priority for British pilots who have helped  establish some of the highest safety standards in Europe.

“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.”

A CAA spokesman said: “The new European rules will increase our oversight role of airline operators and place firm obligations on airlines to introduce comprehensive fatigue management policies and monitoring systems. This will maintain the UK’s current high safety levels and will increase safety levels in some other EU states.”

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Director - Product Management

£75000 - £85000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the largest and fastes...

Recruitment Genius: HGV Fitter - Technician

£16 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity for someone ...

Recruitment Genius: Automotive Service Advisor - Franchised Main Dealer

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful, family owned m...

Ashdown Group: Account Payable Assistant - SW London

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Account Payable Assistant - SW Londo...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence