A pilot for Air New Zealand has admitted to falling into a deep sleep while at the controls during a long-haul flight between London and Los Angeles.
But according to the New Zealand Herald, not only does the pilot have the support of the Air Line Pilots’ Association, the airline is maintaining that safety was not compromised because the pilot wasn’t alone on the flight deck. An airline spokeswoman told the Herald that the pilot “nodded off twice for around a minute and woke spontaneously” and that a second pilot was on the flight deck and was aware of what was happening.
According to the Herald, the pilot attributed his drowsiness to the air conditioning in his London hotel room — it was always either “too hot or too cold,” and he had trouble sleeping.
The nap attacks in question took place back in November 2011 but recently came to light after a request was made under New Zealand’s Official Information Act. The pilot reported the incident and spoke to the Civil Aviation Authority, where he explained that the air conditioning situation led to three room changes in the first two days of his London stopover, contributing to his exhaustion.
In light of the incident New Zealand’s Transport Minister, Gerry Brownlee, wants the airline to improve its safety standards. “You need to satisfy the public you’re making sure your pilots aren’t asleep on the job. You’ve got big reputation issues here; this doesn’t look good,” he reportedly told 3 News. As the BBC writes, the pilot won’t be facing disciplinary action; Air New Zealand has said it doesn’t want to discourage pilots from reporting incidents of this nature in the future.