Given how long it takes to fly from New York City to Rome, it should be no surprise that pilots assigned to that route might need a nap from time to time.
Only they probably shouldn't do it while the plane is at an altitude of 38,000 feet. That's exactly what two pilots did last month on an ITA Airways flight, according to FAA investigators. While one of the pilots was napping during his designated sleep break, the captain nodded off, too -- leaving no one awake to take the plane's 250 passengers to Rome, the FAA reports.
Panicked air traffic controllers, who couldn't reach anyone on the plane for more than 10 minutes, were afraid the plane was being hijacked. They'd already called to deploy fighter jets when one of the pilots eventually responded, investigators found. Aviation analyst John Nance says while "the plane can still fly on autopilot," having no one to monitor the weather or fuel level is "extremely dangerous." He adds, "This is not smart or safe."
In a statement, ITA Airways says the joint nap "was not consistent with the rules dictated by the company." Should the captain lose his license over this?