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Asleep in the Cockpit? Flight Takes Scary Plunge as Pilot Dozes Off

August 14, 2014
Aero Icarus
Aero Icarus

(Photo: Aero Icarus/Flickr)

A plane full of sleeping passengers: a tranquil flight. A cockpit full of sleeping pilots: a potential disaster.

Air regulators in India are investigating a scary incident on August 8 when a Jet Airways Boeing 777-300 dropped more than 5,000 feet while its pilot was dozing off.

Related: British Airways Testing ‘Happiness Blanket’ to Help You Sleep Better on Flights

The incident occurred on a flight from Mumbai to Brussels. The Times of India reports the pilot was taking what’s called a “controlled rest” as called for by international standards for long flights. The co-pilot was supposed to handle flying responsibilities while the pilot was asleep. But she reportedly says she was working on her flight tablet and didn’t notice when the plane descended from its assigned level of 34,000 feet as they were flying over Turkey.

Related: The Future of Airplanes Could Be a Windowless Jet

Fortunately Turkish air traffic controllers did notice and alerted the pilots to climb back toward their assigned altitude.

Now both pilots are suspended pending an investigation. Regulators reportedly are looking into whether the co-pilot had dozed off, too. 

Related: Headlines Got You Scared? What You Need to Know About Airplane Safety (and What You Don’t)

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