Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Pilot ‘falls asleep’ at controls, sparking terror fears on voyage from New York to Rome

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The ITA Airways captain took a 10-minute nap while flying from New York to Rome and had no contact with ground control, sparking terror fears and authorities preparing for an emergency

A pilot operating an ITA Airways flight from New York to Rome nodded off at the controls, sparking terror fears.

Authorities in France readied two fighter jets for surveillance after air traffic controllers were unable to make contact with the plane for 10 minutes.

The captain, who has since been fired, was responsible for flight AZ609 on April 30 when the incident occurred.

The Telegraph reports that the co-pilot was also taking a nap at the time as part of the “controlled rest” protocol while the Airbus 330 was on autopilot. This resulted in a communications blackout that lasted about 10 minutes, which worried ground control.

The communications failure triggered a terror alert from French authorities, who up to that point had been in regular contact with the pilots, who then warned Italian authorities that a hijacking might be taking place.

While French authorities were getting two fighter jets ready to fly near the Italian carrier to monitor the cockpit, Italian authorities contacted ITA Airways’ central command, which attempted to contact the pilots, first using satellite phones and then via Messages on ACARS, a satellite communications tool Used to transmit short messages between aircraft and ground control.

The constant attempts at communication failed for a little over 10 minutes, after which the pilots responded.

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The captain denied falling asleep and blamed problems with the communications system for the communications failure, however the system appeared to be operational as part of the subsequent internal investigation.

Although the pilot sleeping at the controls sounds alarming, airline spokesman Davide D’Amico told The Telegraph that passenger safety was never compromised and the flight was on autopilot, flying at normal speed and altitude and never deviated from its route.

The pilots also landed in Rome 20 minutes earlier than planned.

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