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Growing number of UK airline pilots falling asleep in the cockpit


A sobering set of anecdotes is casting doubt on new European Union rules that let airline pilots be on duty for 22 straight hours, including 11 hours of flight time. Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority, the equivalent of the FAA in the U.S., has collected several reports of pilots who left the cockpit in flight to use the bathroom and returned to find the other pilot asleep when he or she should have been monitoring the flight. Currently, airline pilots in Britain are limited to 18-hour duty days, while U.S. pilots are limited to 9- to 14-hour duty days. A survey of British airline pilots found that 40 percent admitted to falling asleep in the cockpit under the old 18-hour duty day limits, a figure that pilots warned could climb if they are forced to fly over longer periods without rest. Of those who admitted to falling asleep in the cockpit, a third said when they woke up, they found the other pilot was also asleep.