Pilots Admit Sleeping Mid-Flight at Same Time on British Airbus

Officials say the two pilots fell asleep, with autopilot engaged, two hours after takeoff.
11:27 | 09/26/13

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Transcript for Pilots Admit Sleeping Mid-Flight at Same Time on British Airbus
This is this special report from -- -- Look when I'm down -- in New York with this ABC news digital special report. Asleep in the air to -- -- pilots admitted to falling asleep at the same time. While at the controls. The 325. Passenger jet under the control of the auto pilot for an unknown amount of time and the passengers. Completely unaware. I want to bring -- ABC's llama Hasan who's been following this story and -- -- this almost sounds just like every person's nightmare that flies on a regular basis. I know an Indian before tell you what happened I just -- -- your attention to one of the British tabloid papers here because. Even though it is quite as serious topic and you know they can't help but make fun of -- -- on the front page today. It says -- -- caption that says. This is -- captain's. Seat so here's what happens it was revealed today. The eighteen pilots actually confessed they came forward to sleeping on the jolt in the -- -- while in midair. On -- assistant thirteenth of this year what happened was this the pilot and co pilots. Of a 325. Passenger plane. An Airbus A 330 they had decided to take -- -- -- to have twenty minute naps. Now -- in two hours into the flight one -- it wakes up. And finds -- all the one asleep and that the plane was on water upon us now there's nothing wrong with that in fact aviation experts say that's. Planes can. Crews. While on Orton upon it but the problem happens -- if there is an emergency that's when the problem arises then. If -- help pilots are asleep then if you think about it there's no one's actually deal with the problem. -- -- that's why it's very very -- and it's quite as serious issue here. But both pilots did voluntarily come forward and they spoke to the civil aviation authority the CA aid they told them. What had happened. Not why we don't really have not much information we -- how the -- identities. We -- how the airline in fact we don't know went the flight was taking -- -- where it was landing and the reason for this is because the CAA wants. More pilots to come -- To become whistle blowers if you like with such information because of course they deal with -- Quite seriously that there was an incident report that said that the crew had been suffering from severe fatigue. Reportedly and you having some five hours over the course of two days. This report will be circulated. Amongst those in the aviation industries to CAA's says there is a lot of lessons -- have -- -- -- of course this kind of information is Beisel. Going for it so they're trying to put some confidence in the confidentiality essentially of other -- of whether or not something like this has happened before. Do we know -- has the CAA said if they're going to be reviewing any kind of reprimand -- will -- be any kind of repercussions from this has -- we've gotten any indication of what might happen. And -- down and I think the reason is because they voluntarily came for -- they -- they told the CA exactly what happened and that's what we're not expecting. The pundits too -- for us discipline a reaction. Or. Bee lambasted in any way if you -- award to -- EM that they will not. Experience. Any disciplinary reaction -- -- -- to standings so the fact that they came for -- and confessed. To what had happened. Means -- if you like they'll be. And they they went face to -- -- -- discipline a reaction. Has the CAC that they're going to be reviewing their standards in their regulations as far as fatigue as far as scheduled map to schedule time off because of this. Well that's exactly what they're saying that to -- -- line probably have to take a look at the Ross does this. The pilots shifts that schedules because they said that it's -- it they didn't have. Enough opportunity to sneak in if you think about how many hours long haul flights for example so I think what they'll probably. Talk to -- -- Is look at the hours and also talk to figure out. How long pundits can go full without -- to see how long they can take a break for these two pilots were trying to take twenty minute naps. In turn gnawed at the same time obviously. -- I -- one of these issues will have to be that and we'll have to be. Discussed as one of those. It made it into some kind of report that the at -- industry can actually benefit from. And certainly not -- are probably asking themselves today if -- flown recently whether or not that was their flight given the fact that there is. Not -- an airline identified and certainly no names have been put forward on this and the CAA doesn't seem to be indicating that they're going to be revealing any of that kind of information so. It will be interesting to see how that will play out now -- for the CIA but for the FAA here in the United States. Yeah and what lessons can be -- from this sin and whether or not the information is going to be -- because this is as we were saying. Beisel and summation. But there is a reason why the passengers didn't know in the passengers. Like -- won't -- that this happened on our fleiss because CAA is encouraging more pilots all and more information on like this. To be submitted to more pundits to come for it because. While the CAA says that this is quite serious it is ran our butts that's because pilots are afraid to come for its -- -- trying to encourage more of this to happen. All right ABC's -- -- and in line and with the tabloid headline that. Only a -- of the holy we can expect we appreciate that I want to bring in. Our aviation expert lieutenant colonel John Nance -- to talk about the severity of this and lieutenant just how dangerous is it then the fly a plane. Sleep deprived. Well it's basically not not a problem that a hole as long as you wake up before you get to destination. Fact is this is not a scandalous thing this is something that has been a systemic problem for a very long time. And we when I was flying for company -- Braniff international many years ago we had to sleep on the -- We need to have a rest -- work plan and the ability to sleep with alarm -- or whatever is necessary to make sure that all pilots -- at least one pilot -- always -- The fact is humans get fatigued and and this is a very serious problem worldwide. Especially with airlines -- to -- -- as much out of their pilots is possible. Where does the fall line is it with the aviation regulation or is it with the airline. It's both the airline's push and push and portion want to in many cases understand the latest research the industry search by the way and it's it's our clan. Is that if you're up for more than 41 hours when he -- -- literate doctor whatever else he warned the equivalent of a legal -- And that doesn't have anything to do with cumulative but in which could also be very very problematic. -- these guys were as sleep deprived of sounds they wore. That they are not the problem here in the airline -- the problem the regulators -- the problem and we need to tackle list. And certainly in the last thing in the world you wanna do is is -- these two pilots -- socially as an example of negativity in other words they came forward that's exactly what we wanted to do we have a systemic problem and -- needs to be fixed I want. Asking your thoughts about this idea that the CA may be trying to keep this account confidential because it's try to encourage other accounts to come forward. What kind of degree of confidence then -- the airline industry report onto its passengers knowing that they might be gathering this information and a very clandestine way. Let's look at -- some and -- very reasonable way if you've got things going on in the cockpit -- sleeper otherwise it shouldn't be happening would you rather have those hidden as a passenger and kind of a wink wink nudge -- or would you rather have pilots easily coming forward and say hey look at the mistake I made yesterday. Knowing that they're going to be protected and knowing that the thing that we need is the information in order to make the system better. Obviously it's the latter so if anybody who wants blood so to speak. Is very misguided in going just for the -- -- the end of its pilots when in fact it's a systemic problem. Let me ask you this from your observation what is going to be the tipping point if we hear account about this. We'll take a number of these kinds of accounts would take -- unfortunate is something catastrophic to happen from this kind of an occurrence. Well hopefully not although we certainly have had a long history and aviation of having to learn local graveyard technology somebody has to get killed before it happens I think we've gotten a lot better the last 4530 years there is so much research that is absolutely irrefutable on fatigue. That there really it becomes negligence in the extreme for any regulatory authority including our own FAA to drag their feet on new regulations -- the FAA to their credit did put out new regulations recently. On -- not. I don't believe they've gone far enough. But that's at least a step in the right direction but worldwide the business -- we can't let pilots sleep in the cockpit is absurd it's idiotic. And it is not work for the liberal -- into our history of commercial aviation. In less -- wanted to ask you about this and maybe this might speak to the general the problem at hand here. If in fact that these pilots are overworked and oftentimes the crew and oftentimes we've heard if you look at the entire airline industry oftentimes those in the control towers well. Lot -- -- simply ask just hire more. With with regards to pilots is -- a shortage of pilots is it an aging population. Well -- I think basically what it comes down to especially the United States it's a it's a system that depends on maximum out of monetary flow. Doesn't consider itself to be the public utility that it is the airline industry and basically they're always pushing to squeeze more out of list I mean that's that's business on but. But you see past -- be continually and in. By the realities of the human capabilities and this is one thing is worldwide -- -- -- that would Madison which have been involvement for about twenty years bringing us across mediation or whether it has to do with aviation or nuclear power generation. Human beings have limitations and one problem -- is that we get tired when we get fired. We begin to make more mistakes and when they get cumulatively -- -- chronically fatigued we make even more mistakes and the problem is you can't just Russia at all. Level your finger in a bunch of pilots say you boys be careful out there now here and don't get -- don't go to sleep it doesn't work. So slowly in industries that have to do little awful lot of money generation which is the airline industry -- a lot of expense for pilots in this case. They're gonna have to basically the belly up in the -- and realized that you can't work people beyond a certain point it has nothing to do with union largest it has to do with the physiology physiological limits of finalists. Aren't very complicated issue and obviously -- all gives us a little bit pause next summer to be check in for that flight. Aviation expert lieutenant John Nance lieutenant thank you so much we appreciate your time angry Muslim don't worry about my air force -- We certainly appreciate that we will absolutely recognize that we have a complete report on abcnews.com. And on Dan -- -- New York. With the CBC news digital special report. This has been a special report from me.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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