How would you react if you were told that your pilot was sleeping? Panic? Surprise? Or just calm down, knowing it was a normal situation. Because pilot sleep is allowed, and even encouraged, because a short, well-timed nap can promote alertness when it’s needed most, like when a pilot lands on an airplane.
Most aviation authorities stipulate that a pilot cannot remain at the controls in the cockpit for more than eight hours. However, many flights from Australia are longer than this, and this eight hour period can be extended if they are taking a nap.
This can be either controlled rest, in their seat on the flight deck, or sleeper rest, in a dedicated crew rest compartment, commonly found on long aircraft. -mails.
On an Airbus 380, the pilot rest compartment is just aft of the cockpit. On board Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, it’s above the main deck, up a short flight of stairs above the forward cabin. They’re functional, but far from the kind of luxury first-class passengers enjoy. A typical flight crew quarters has two thin mattresses side by side, with a curtain divider in the middle.
Controlled rest is strictly what the name suggests, and a pilot must stay awake. This did not happen on a recent New York-Rome flight when the captain of an Airbus A330 operated by ITA, the Italian flag carrier, fell asleep at the wheel. His co-pilot was also taking a nap, but his rest period was approved.
As the plane passed near Marseilles, the French air traffic controllers tried to contact the captain, without response. Fearing a diversion, the French contacted the ITA controllers who managed to wake up the pilots after 10 minutes.
None of the passengers or cabin crew noticed anything untoward. The plane was on autopilot and had not deviated from its trajectory. No problem. But ITA didn’t see it that way. The unapproved cruise rehearsal saw the captain fired.