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Asleep at the controls?

   
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najibj
Trainee
Trainee

Pro Member

Joined: Dec 26, 2009
Posts: 2
Posted: Mon Apr 25, 2011 10:42 am 

Your article "Cockpit Fatigue - Are Pilots Asleep at the Controls?" reminds me of the following episode.
Sometime in the late 1990s, as Medical Director of an air rescue service, we got a call from a hospital in Windhoek, capital of Namibia (just over 600 nm from Johannesburg where we were based), to transport a critical patient back to Johannesburg. We offered a choice of 2 aircraft. Their budget would cover the cost of a King Air 200. It was about 2030h, which meant we were spending most of the night in the King Air.
"WeĒ for a critical patient, was a doctor and either an Advanced Life Support Paramedic or an ICU nurse. A paramedic was on call and I was the doctor on call. Equipment for such a patient was as much of a 'one-bed ICU' that we could stuff into 2 (very big!) backpacks. What we couldn't fit into the packs, we carried. There were always several carry-bags, cases, etc that we carried.
The pilots were all VOLUNTEERS. A number of them were very experienced jet fighter pilots, veterans of the Angolan war of previous decades (mostly Mirages/Cheetahs). Our pilot on call that night was someone I hadnít met (NOT an Angola veteran). He came from a restaurant where he was dining out. We took off sometime after 2100h. The paramedic and I had to try and sleep on the trip to Windhoek because we had to be very awake with our patient on the way back.
We started the return trip at about 0200h. Sometime near 0400h I went to ask the pilot a question. He was asleep. He was leaning against the side window with his head on a pillow: A real pillow-in-a-pillowcase-from-a-bed pillow. Later, the paramedic and I went through scenarios if we hadnít been on the aircraft. Maybe he thought the rising sun would wake him Ė we were flying east. If the sun had not woken him and if he was extremely lucky, then if he woke up and saw the Indian Ocean he would realise he had overshot Johannesburg by a few hundred miles.
He didnít fly for us again.
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Traches
First Officer
First Officer

Pro Member

Joined: Jan 31, 2008
Posts: 489
Location: Louisville, KY, USA
Posted: Mon Apr 25, 2011 11:12 am 

Hah! Maybe he had an alarm set? And wouldn't there be criminal prosecution for this sort of thing? Seeing as it was clearly pre-meditated what with the pillow and all.
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najibj
Trainee
Trainee

Pro Member

Joined: Dec 26, 2009
Posts: 2
Posted: Mon Apr 25, 2011 7:28 pm 

Hah! Maybe he had an alarm set? And wouldn't there be criminal prosecution for this sort of thing? Seeing as it was clearly pre-meditated what with the pillow and all.

You are right of course. Subsequent investigation revealed other stuff - not on our flight- such as alcohol and piloting.
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