Pilots doze off for 28 minutes, plane veers off path in Indonesia

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Pilots of an aircraft in Indonesia fell asleep for 28 minutes leading to the plane straying off its course, a report released by the National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT), a government agency revealed.

According to the government report, the pilot along with the co-pilot of the Batik Air BTK6723 fell asleep during a flight from Kendari in Southeast Sulawesi province to Indonesian capital Jakarta. The aircraft was scheduled to go from Jakarta to Kenderi, and then return.

However, none of the 153 passengers and four flight attendants on board the plane were injured during the flight. No damage on aircraft was reported.

Later, the flight that lasted two hours and 35 minutes successfully landed in Jakarta.

According to KNKT report, during the flight preparation in Jakarta on January 25, the co-pilot (also known as the second-in-command pilot) had notified his pilot  (also known as pilot-in-command) that he had not had “proper rest”. So after the plane cruised at an altitude of 36,000 feet, he asked the co-pilot to take rest. The co-pilot slept for “about 30 minutes” inside the cockpit and woke up just before the plane began descending to Kenderi.

Both the pilots ate “instant noodle cups in the cockpit” during the transit.

After the aircraft Batik Air BTK6723 reached a cruising altitude, the pilot sought permission to sleep from the co-pilot, and then slept off. Meanwhile, the co-pilot took over as the ‘pilot monitoring (PM)’.

After some time the pilot woke up and asked if the co-pilot wanted to take some rest. Upon the co-pilot’s decline, the pilot dozed off again.

Around 90 minutes into the flight, the co-pilot who was acting both as ‘pilot flying’ and ‘pilot monitoring’, “inadvertently fell asleep”, the KNKT report mentioned.

After waiting for 12 minutes since the last recorded transmission from the co-pilot, the Jakarta area control center (ACC) tried contacting the BTK6723 pilots, but there was no reply from their end. Other pilots were also asked to call the the Batik Air pilots, still no reply was recorded.

When the pilot woke up 28 minutes later, he noticed that the “aircraft was not in the correct flight path”. He then woke up the co-pilot, and told the ACC that the flight had experienced a “radio communication problem” which had now been resolved.

The flight then made a safe landing in Jakarta.

The KNKT report did not disclose the names of the pilots, but identified the pilot as a 32-year-old and the co-pilot as a 28-year-old. It even mentioned that both were Indonesian males. The co-pilot had one-month-old twins and “had to wake up several times to help his wife take care of the babies”, the report added.

The Indonesia Transport Ministry is to launch an investigation into the incident that took place on January 25, the state news agency Antara, citing the civil aviation director-general M Kristi Endah Murni, said.

 “We will conduct an investigation and review of the night flight operation in Indonesia regarding the Fatigue Risk Management for Batik Air and other flight operators,” Murni added.

Murni even said that flight crew of BTK6723 have been grounded according to the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) pending further investigation.


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