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Aviation expert criticizes lack of action against pilot who fell asleep during flight


June 26, 2019 05:19:37

An airline expert has criticized Australia's security officials for failing to take action against a sleeping pilot as he flew to King Island on the northwest coast of Tasmania in November 2018.

Key points:

  • The ATSB found that the Vortex Air pilot had not slept in the 24 hours before the flight
  • Vortex Air said that the pilot made his own decision to fly back to Moorabbin without rest
  • Aviation expert said the case gave a bad example to the rest of the industry

According to a report from the Australian Department of Transportation Safety (ATSB), when the pilot agreed, his Piper PA-31-350 – registered as VH-TWU – was 78 kilometers northwest of King Island.

The ATSB found that the Vortex Air pilot had not slept in the 24 hours prior to the flight, had reached a level of fatigue that affected his performance and, after landing at King Island, remained at Moorabbin, Melbourne, without rest.

The ATSB made no recommendation to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and while CASA audited the fatigue management of Vortex Air, it found no serious problem.

Neil Hansford, the chairman of strategic aviation consulting firm Strategic Aviation Solutions, said in his opinion that the lack of recommendations or other actions was disappointing.

"If nothing else, the pilot should have his license suspended for a [or] the carrier should have its license suspended for a period, "he said.

"The way this report is written, not the management of fatigue rules, is being viewed as an acceptable practice without punitive damages."

Hansford said the incident, classified by ATSB as serious, could have resulted in a fatality.

"Although [the pilot] had an incident of fatigue and overslept and had to return, he still did not rest and headed to Moorabbin, straight into the congested suburbs of Melbourne, "he said.

"I find it totally almost macabre."

Hansford said that fatigue management is a basic requirement of safety for pilots and aircraft operators.

"This gives a very bad example to the rest of the industry because in the case of an overflight in Tasmania, [the ATSB] chose to do nothing about it, "he said.

"There were no fines, no suspensions, so what does this say to a driver who started in his career about what will happen to the regulator?"

Fatigue can affect pilots in a manner similar to alcohol

The president of the Australian Society of Aerospace Medicine, Kate Manderson, said that fatigue can have a severe impact on a driver's mental and physical functioning.

She said that fatigue can impair a pilot's ability to make decisions, withhold information and perform mental calculations, affect their physical coordination and reaction times, and even assess the fatigue that affects them.

"We know that when people are continuously awake for 17 hours, it's a similar level of impairment of a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05, which gives you an idea of ​​the level of impairment of brain function as well as motor control gross, "she said.

The Doctor. Manderson said that proper management of fatigue required aircraft operators and airlines to help pilots talk when they felt too tired to fly safely.

"We may have systems and cultures, but one has to be able to make that decision and say," I've been awake for a long time, my quality of sleep was not great, maybe I have too much going on in my world now and I'm not fit [to fly]& # 39 ;, "she said.

Civil aviation laws on flight time limitations state that:

"A flight crew member shall not fly and the operator shall not require the person to fly if the flight crew member is suffering or, in view of the circumstances of the particular flight being carried out, suffering, fatigue or fatigue. which may affect judgment or performance, to the extent that safety may be impaired. "

If a pilot or aircraft operator violates these rules, CASA may suspend or cancel its certificates, licenses or approvals.

In a statement, CASA said the incident highlighted the need for pilots and air operators to take responsibility for managing fatigue.

Unless a matter goes to court, CASA does not disclose information about the conditions of individual pilot licenses.

While the ATSB investigates transportation security incidents, it does not have the power to distribute fault or liability.

Vortex Air said the pilot had no scheduled flights in the five days prior to the incident and made his own decision to fly back to Moorabbin without additional rest.

He said he advised the pilot while he was on King Island and when he returned to Moorabbin.


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