Sleeping pilot flew 78km past Tasmanian destination

A pilot who fell asleep behind the controls of a flight and flew past his destination in Tasmania had been awake for 24 hours before the flight, a safety report found.

The pilot, who has not been identified, had reportedly been awake for about 24 hours before taking off after being unable to sleep. He was the only person aboard the twin-propeller plane on the November 8 flight from Devonport city in Tasmania to King Island in Bass Strait.

He fell asleep while the plane was on autopilot and overflew his destination by 78km, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said in its final report into the incident.

The report said after leaving Devonport the aircraft, a Piper PA-31 Navajo Chieftain operated by Vortex Air, reached an altitude of 6000 feet.

The pilot missed his destination on King Island, Tasmania by about 78km. Picture: ATSBSource:Supplied

The pilot then “started to feel tired and rapidly fell asleep”, the report said.

Air traffic control and other pilots tried to reach the pilot’s plane but were unsuccessful. When he woke up, he discovered his autopilot had taken the aircraft 78km north of his intended destination.

The pilot landed the plane at King Island without injury or aircraft damage. But after contacting his supervisor to “discuss what had happened … the pilot then completed the shift, flying from King Island back to Moorabbin” in Melbourne, the report said.

The pilot, employed by Vortex Air, had been awake for 24 hours before the flight. Picture: Vortex AirSource:Instagram

The ATSB’s report found the pilot had been awake for about 24 hours after being unable to sleep prior to take off.

The pilot’s fatigue was at a level known to affect performance and even if the pilot had been able to sleep before the flight, he still would have been fatigued, the report said.

“This investigation highlights the need for pilots to assess their level of fatigue before and during their flight,” the ATSB’s Nat Nagy said.

“Before commencing night operations, pilots are encouraged to modify their usual sleep routines to ensure they are adequately rested.”

With AAP

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