Plane veered off course after pilots fell asleep for 28 minutes on flight, report says

Both Batik Air pilot and co-pilot fell asleep simultaneously for 28 minutes during a flight. Credit: AP

An investigation has been launched after two pilots fell asleep for almost half an hour during an internal Indonesian flight that veered off course while they napped.

Both the Batik Air pilot and co-pilot fell asleep at the same time for 28 minutes during a flight from Kendari to Indonesia's capital Jakarta on January 25, causing navigational errors as “the aircraft was not in the correct flight path," according to a preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT),

None of the 153 passengers or four flight attendants were injured during the flight, and there was no damage to the aircraft, the KNKT preliminary report said.

The flight safely landed in Jakarta, according to the state news agency Antara, quoting the preliminary report.

The second-in-command pilot, who had one-month-old twins and “had to wake up several times to help his wife take care of the babies,” had notified his co-pilot earlier in the day that he had not had “proper rest" after sleeping for "about 30 minutes" on the previous flight, the report detail.

After the aircraft reached cruising altitude, the 32-year-old pilot-in-command asked for permission to also rest and the second-in-command, 28, took over the aircraft. Around 90 minutes into the flight, the second-in-command then “inadvertently fell asleep,” according to the report.

Twelve minutes after the last recorded transmission by the co-pilot air traffic control tried to reach the aircraft, but there was no reply from the pilots, it said.

Around 28 minutes after the last recorded transmission, the pilot-in-command woke up and realised the plane was not in the correct flight path. At that point, he woke up the second-in-command and responded to the ACC, it said.

The pilot-in-command reportedly told the ACC the flight had experienced a “radio communication problem” that had been resolved.

“We will conduct an investigation and review of the night flight operation in Indonesia regarding the Fatigue Risk Management for Batik Air and other flight operators,” Murni said in a statement, according to Antara.

Flight crews of BTK6723 have also been grounded according to standard operating procedure pending further investigation, she added, according to the news agency.

She also said the agency will dispatch a flight inspector authorized on Resolution of Safety Issue (RSI) to investigate the cause of the incident and recommend mitigation measures to flight operators and supervisors, Antara reported.

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