Aircraft Wanders Off Course After Both Pilots Nod Off In Cockpit

( — Two pilots who fly for the Indonesian airline Batik Air have been temporarily suspended while the company investigates the January 5 incident where they both fell asleep midflight, causing the plane to go off course. Nobody was injured, and Batik Air flight BTK6723 carrying 159 people was landed safely without further incident. Indonesia’s Transport Ministry has strongly reprimanded Batik Air and will be investigating to clarify where exactly the situation went wrong.

On that Friday in January, both the pilot and his co-pilot were cleared to fly after the usual safety checks for alcohol, blood pressure, and heart rate. The 28-year-old co-pilot, however, was the father of twin infants, and was suffering from severely disrupted sleep. The 32-year-old pilot was apparently also suffering from lack of sleep, as he asked his co-pilot if it would be alright if he rested once they got to cruising altitude. The co-pilot agreed, and when asked if he’d like to rest next, he declined the offer.

After the co-pilot said he didn’t want to rest, the pilot fell back asleep. When he woke, he discovered that, despite his earlier refusal, the co-pilot was asleep, and the flight was not on the correct flight path. The pilots then got the plane back on course and made it safely to Jakarta. The National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) findings show that both pilots were asleep at the same time for approximately 28 minutes.

While this incident may seem shocking, the European Cockpit Association ran a survey of 6,893 pilots in July 2023, in which 75% of the respondents admitted to falling asleep while piloting a plane at least once. Air transport director-general, M. Kristi Endah Murni, says they will be conducting an investigation and comprehensive review of Batik Air and all other night flight operations in Indonesia with a focus on fatigue risk management. In the meantime, he says that airlines need to pay closer attention to their air crew’s rest time.

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