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Unconscious Pilot Operated Craft for 40 Minutes on Autopilot

Unconscious Pilot Operated Craft for 40 Minutes on Autopilot
Jackie Reddy

A trainee pilot in Australia reportedly fell unconscious during a recent solo flight. A follow-up investigation by the ATSB observed that the pilot, who was unconscious in mid-air for 40 minutes, had had little sleep the night before the flight and only a very light breakfast the day of the flight.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is investigating an incident during which a trainee pilot reportedly operated an aircraft while unconscious, The Independent reports. The incident occurred during a recent solo flight from Port Augusta Airport (PUG) to Parafield Airport (YPPF) in the south of Australia.

The bureau has reported that the pilot had a poor night’s sleep the evening before the flight and only consumed Gatorade, a chocolate bar and water before getting into the cockpit. The investigation also found that about 40 minutes into the flight, the pilot began to suffer from a headache and turned the autopilot on.

An excerpt of the ATSB’s report, as quoted by the outlet, states, “Shortly after, the pilot became unconscious.” He is said to have stayed in this state for 40 minutes. During this time, he is reported to have missed attempts by air traffic controllers to contact him.

Thankfully, the flight was seen by another nearby aircraft and it was then confirmed that the pilot was now conscious.

The trainee’s plane was escorted back to YPPF by the second craft. The flight school attended by the trainee said that, as a result of this incident, it would place more emphasis on the importance of sleep and how to manage fatigue.

The ATSB confirmed that, in addition to monitoring their sleep, students at the flight school would now also be required to report the details of their daily meals.

[Image Source: Shutterstock]

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1 Comment

  1. Great_circle

    June 15, 2019 at 8:38 pm

    A bit off topic but I’m curious about the aircraft type. In many countries students fly solo during their initial training which usually involves basic single engine piston aircraft that not always have autopilot.

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