It is being reported this morning that 2 pilots were discovered asleep in the cockpit of their A-330 on their way across ‘the Pond.’ Crap… Well, be it as it is, let me give you a perspective from the other side of the door.
In his report one of the pilots mentioned that they had only had 5 hours of sleep the night before. Unfortunately this is more common than you might think.
When I was flying for Northwest Airlines we were ‘given’ 10 hours of crew rest for a night. The FAA (Federal Aviation Agency) came about this by figuring 8 hours of sleep, plus and hour travel to and from the airport. This concept works great for the “suit” who came up with the plan while sitting at a nice desk in DC. But out in the field it rarely, if ever, works as designed.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times the hotel van was late. Or we were late arriving at a station for the night. Then upon getting to the hotel it was not uncommon to get a key (card) that would not work for the assigned room. This typically occurred at a room on the 4th floor, at the back of the hotel. So, back down to the desk, lugging your bags, only to hear how sorry some indifferent desk clerk was.
Then it wasn’t out of the ordinary to have a party going on in the next room once you got settled in. Or, upon occasion, for some couple to decide “to get it on” just as you were about to fall asleep. Swell! So, there goes your 8 hours of crew rest…
It was strictly against the regs to sleep in the cockpit. However, sometimes you just can’t get around it. I certainly was aware of the regulation, but really didn’t much give a shit. But be that as it may, the ‘suit’ who came up with the concept certainly can be proud… it is indeed, a fine regulation.
I routinely briefed the folks I flew with, “…if you feel tired, let me know. Then take a 15-20 minute nap, and you’ll be fine. And, I’ll do the same for you.” The key was to let the other guy know. If I don’t say anything and happen to doze off, then I run the risk of waking up and finding the other pilot asleep! And I can tell you, that sucks!