Pilot Glides Right Past Destination While Napping: Officials

Aussie authorities say plane missed its mark by 30 miles or so before pilot woke up, turned around
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 27, 2018 7:44 AM CST
Officials: Snoozing Pilot Overshot Destination by 30 Miles
Not the allegedly sleepy pilot in question.   (Dash Coleman/Savannah Morning News via AP)

The plane's destination: King Island, Tasmania. Where the pilot ended up: not King Island, Tasmania—at least not at first—after officials say the pilot took a snooze and overshot the planned landing by 30 miles or so. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau is citing the pilot's "incapacitation," reports the BBC, after the Piper PA-31 run by charter company Vortex Air didn't finish its 150-mile trip from Devonport as planned on Nov. 8. "During the cruise, the pilot fell asleep, resulting in the aircraft overflying King Island by 46 kilometers," the ATSB says in a statement. The AP notes the plane was on autopilot, and the "issue became apparent" when air traffic controllers couldn't get in touch with the pilot as the plane glided past King Island, per a Vortex Air statement.

The unidentified pilot eventually awoke, turned around, and landed safely on King Island, per Vortex, which adds the pilot's nap was "unintentional." The Australian reports the pilot had had very little sleep the night before due to a personal emergency. The pilot was the only one onboard the nine-passenger aircraft. Newsweek cites a 2013 poll of 500 pilots that shows this type of fatigue may not be so unusual: More than half of those surveyed said they'd fallen asleep while on the flight deck. An investigation is ongoing by both the ATSB and Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority, and Vortex says it's trying to help the pilot "safely return to full duties," per the AP. (This pilot wouldn't let a woman fly because of her shorts.)

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