Here is a piece of news that might be a bit disconcerting for frequent fliers in the UK. It has recently been learnt that almost 56% of British pilots doze off in the cockpit while the plane they are flying is still in the air. In fact, it was also discovered that the copilots follow suit. Agreed, nowadays planes are programmed to fly virtually on their own, reducing the parts the pilot and the copilots play to the minimum. But, there is always the danger of something going wrong up in the air under which circumstance human intervention might be required.
It seems exhaustion has a huge part to play in the pilots dozing off, especially on the long haul flights. The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) is the body that made this shocking discovery upon interviewing a number of British pilots. Now to add to the woes of these already overworked and exhausted pilots the European Parliament, which will from now on formulate the polices instead of the British, has decided to extend the working hours of the pilots from 95 hours a week to 110 hours a week. In addition, British pilots would now be expected to fly for 11 hours at a stretch in the night instead of the previous 10 hours.
The BALPA has expressed outrage at this imminent change in policy that is all set to be ratified. Commenting on the issue Jim McAuslan of BALPA was quoted as saying “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.” It appears that the European Parliament didn’t give much credence to the findings of the pilots’ union or it would surely not have gone ahead with this decision.
Surely for many people the news that pilots and even copilots doze off during a flight would be something really difficult to digest. Probably, the people in the European Parliament feel that the autopilot function is so reliable that human involvement is barely needed. Maybe they should watch the Denzel Washington movie “Flight”, it would surely change their minds.