Pilots sleep on flight with 153 people; Indonesia starts inquiry

An investigation has revealed that two Indonesian pilots dozed off for nearly 30 minutes mid-flight. Both the pilot and co-pilot were simultaneously asleep for approximately 28 minutes during a Batik Air flight from South East Sulawesi to Jakarta on January 25, as reported by the National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT). Despite resulting in navigation errors, the incident did not harm the 153 passengers and four flight attendants on the Airbus A320 during the two-hour-and-35-minute flight.

The transport ministry strongly reprimanded Batik Air, urging increased attention to aircrew rest time. The air transport director general, Maria Kristi Endah Murni, announced an investigation and review of night flight operations in Indonesia, particularly regarding fatigue risk management for Batik Air and other flight operators. Batik Air, in a statement, asserted its commitment to safety recommendations and claimed to operate with an adequate rest policy. The pilots involved in the incident were temporarily suspended.

According to the KNKT report, one of the pilots had insufficient rest the night before the flight. About 90 minutes into the journey, the captain sought permission from the co-pilot to take a short break, which was granted. However, the co-pilot also unintentionally fell asleep while assuming command. The report mentioned that the co-pilot, who had one-month-old twin babies, had assisted at home while his wife cared for the infants.

Several minutes after the co-pilot’s last recorded transmission, the area control center in Jakarta attempted to contact the aircraft, receiving no response. The pilot woke up 28 minutes later, discovered his co-pilot asleep, and realized the aircraft was off course. After correcting the flight path and responding to calls from Jakarta, the plane landed safely. While the report did not disclose the pilots’ identities, it revealed they were Indonesian and aged 32 and 28. KNKT recommended Batik Air to conduct regular cockpit checks and ensure adequate rest for pilots and cabin crew before flights.

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