Batik Air suspends pilots who slept in mid-air

JAKARTA, March 11: Indonesia’s Batik Air has suspended two pilots after an alarming incident where both were found asleep during a domestic flight in January, the airline said.

The pilot took a nap during the return flight to Jakarta from Kendari after reaching cruising altitude, but the co-pilot unintentionally fell asleep while at the helm, Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) said in a report.

“Batik Air took preventive action by temporarily suspending the pilots of flight number ID-6723, on the Kendari to Jakarta route, who served on January 25,” airline spokesman Danang Mandala Prihantoro said in a statement over the weekend.

The lapse resulted in a loss of communication when the aircraft strayed from its intended path and Jakarta air traffic control could not reach the flight for 28 minutes, the KNKT said. 

The situation was rectified when the first pilot woke up and re-established communication, attributing the silence to a radio issue, the report added. The aircraft landed safely in Jakarta.

The airline said it was reinforcing its safety protocols and emphasising the importance of rest for its crew. 

The KNKT report said the first pilot had a rest period of 35 hours, while the co-pilot, who is a new parent to one-month-old twins, had 53 hours of rest but suffered from disrupted sleep.

“His wife took care of the babies and the SIC [second in command] assisted while at home,” the report said.