Plane overshoots destination by almost 50km after pilot 'fell asleep'
If you've ever had to take a long drive at night, or take the wheel when you're sleep-deprived, you know how dangerous it can be. It's a lot easier when you're making turns every other second, looking out for road signs, but when you're on the freeway for long stretches, it gets far too easy for your eyes to droop.
It's at this point that you should absolutely find somewhere to pull over and take a break, either stopping off for the night somewhere or at least getting a coffee to perk you up for the travels ahead of you. However, it's a little harder to pull this off when you're thousands of feet in the air - as this pilot realised all too late.
According to air safety officials, a small plane recently overshot its destination in Australia by almost 50 km. The pilot had reportedly fallen asleep in the cockpit, completely missing his intended airport and instead drifting on for miles.
Luckily, the pilot was the only person on board the plane, which was a freight flight from Devonport to King Island in Tasmania.
The flight, which took place on November 8, has been classified as a case of "incapacitation". The Australian Transport Safety Bureau are conducting an investigation into the events, but have not clarified exactly how the pilot landed the plane safely yet.
The Piper PA-31 aircraft, which was operated by Vortex Air, was due to complete the 240 km trip by 7:15 AM local time, but things didn't turn out as they hoped.
"During the cruise, the pilot fell asleep, resulting in the aircraft overflying King Island by 46 kilometres," the ATSB said in a brief statement.
Aviation expert Neil Hansford said that Australia had strict rules relating to pilot fatigue, which makes this incident all the more notable. "There is no way in the world that someone should've taken on that flight fatigued," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
On their website, Vortex Air states that they runs charter flights for "groups, corporates and leisure travellers" around Australia, so it's fortunate that this plane only had the one person on board. “The issue became apparent when air traffic control was unable to contact the pilot in flight, and the aircraft traveled past the intended destination point while operating on autopilot,” their statement said.
“Vortex Air takes the safety of our passengers, crew and pilots extremely seriously and always abide by all safety procedures. This is an extremely rare occurrence, as demonstrated by the company’s excellent safety track record."
The ATSB said that they are set to interview the pilot, and will soon review their operating procedures - before a report is released in 2019.