News Item:
Pilots asleep on airport approach

Profit is the bottom line in any kind of business, and scheduling workers to boost productivity is common practice.  If an employee on the line can load 10% more boxes by putting in 5% more time, businesses will find a way to squeeze that 5% in.  Not every job benefits from speeding up the line though, or cramming in more hours.  Hospital workers, for instance, should be fresh and alert.  Otherwise, well… they could kill you.  The same should apply to the transportation industry, especially when you’re sitting in a thin skinned tube with wings at 35,000 feet.

Modern airliners, it should be noted, can literally fly themselves, and under the right circumstances, even land, but by and large it’s up to the pilot to get the thing down to the ground.  Which means, of course, the pilot has to be awake, and that apparently hasn’t always been the case.

A report has surfaced about one such incident, just outside Denver.  An A319 Airbus, a fairly sizable chunk of tin, was supposed to be on final approach to the airport.  It’s assigned approach altitude was 19,000 feet.  Approach speed just under 300 mph.  This particular plane though, was up at 35,000 feet, and streaking blissfully along at over 600 mph.  Air traffic controllers, traditionally known for keeping their cool, found themselves screaming into their control tower microphones.  It seems the pilot and co-pilot both had dozed off.  Not for long though, only about 45 minutes.

[Calculator time]
600 mph = 10 miles per minute.
45 minutes = 450 miles.

That means nap time occured before the flight even reached Colorado, probably somewhere over Kansas or Nebraska.  My first order of business after boarding a plane is asking the stewardess how soon cocktails will be served.  Now go ahead and ask me why…

News Source: Rocky Mountain News

Cartoon from Sid in the City

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