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Topic Author
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Ever Fallen Asleep While Piloting An Airplane?

Sun Mar 20, 2005 11:32 am

Apparently a University of North Dakota student pilot did fall asleep while flying from MIC (Crystal Airport, Minneapolis MN) to GFK and crashed in the process.

The final NTSB report states, "The pilot reported that he contacted flight service when he was near St. Cloud, Minnesota, which was also his first VFR check point. He reported that he missed identifying the second check point, but he continued on course using the VOR and GPS for navigation. He reported that he visually identified Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, from a distance. The pilot reported that he did not remember anything else about the flight. He reported that the next thing he remembered was when he opened his eyes and realized that he was in a corn field and that the airplane had crashed. He was unable to move, but he yelled for help when rescue personnel arrived at the accident site."

The pilot also said, "First, I should not have taken off thinking that I might get tired. I should have requested flight following to keep my attention. Possibly [I] should have recognized symptoms of fatigue and possibly state of consciousness, and landed before losing consciousness."

You can read the full NTSB report here:


I do realize that flying an aircraft alone can get rather monotonous, but this is still pretty scary to think of. Does this happen very often for someone to fall asleep long enough for them to crash and not even know it? I can't really recall hearing a story similar to this before.

[Edited 2005-03-20 03:34:40]
Jean Leloup
Posts: 2004
Joined: Fri Apr 06, 2001 10:46 am

RE: Ever Fallen Asleep While Piloting An Airplane?

Sun Mar 20, 2005 11:40 am

If anyone here has done so, they probably wouldn't admit it!  Wink

Interesting possibility, though. I often struggle to stay awake in boring classes, even though I'm surrounded by other people, which should keep me alert. I do'nt know what would happen on a long solo cross-country flight at night. I would think that the excitement of flying would keep me alert. But I guess that excitement wears off after a while...
Jean Leloup - original moderator and still recovering!
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RE: Ever Fallen Asleep While Piloting An Airplane?

Sun Mar 20, 2005 11:40 am

I should be one of the first to say that this does happen. I know from experience that some of these part 141 flight schools have quite in-depth training schedules that can become quite routine over a long period of time. You have to also think about the fact that this person is also a full time college student who more than likely was up the night before studying or writing papers. I for one have had instances where I could feel my eyes becoming pretty heavy on long cross country flights, the best I could do would be to open the window and have the air keep me awake. Also I think the reason he didn't notice was that the crash must have not been that violent. I hope this helps!  Silly

Frontier Pilot
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RE: Ever Fallen Asleep While Piloting An Airplane?

Sun Mar 20, 2005 12:03 pm

I haven't fallen asleep, but a few of my flight instuctors have. I usually pulled of a spin or spiral dive, got them awake pretty quick with one of those.
A Grumpy German Is A Sauerkraut
Posts: 534
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RE: Ever Fallen Asleep While Piloting An Airplane?

Sun Mar 20, 2005 12:12 pm

Twenty plus years ago, at my first flying job, I had a very long duty day. This came after a few days of equally long duty days.
During an ILS approach at night, I REALLY struggled to stay awake; I did one "head bob." It scared me plenty. After landing and off-loading my freight, I hit the coffee machine for some caffeine, twice. This delayed my departure for the last, and thankfully short, leg to my home base.
My boss admitted to once overflying a destination by about 30 minutes (also during a late night freight run).
A little bit louder now, a lil bit louder now...
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RE: Ever Fallen Asleep While Piloting An Airplane?

Sun Mar 20, 2005 12:31 pm

Never, but once almost fell asleep.I was with my flight instructor, so I told him to take the yoke and bring us back.Had a repairing 20 minute nap... yawn 

You are now free to move about the cabin
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RE: Ever Fallen Asleep While Piloting An Airplane?

Sun Mar 20, 2005 12:48 pm

I have not. I guess the "novelty" of flying hasn't worn off for me yet. Things would certainly be different if one were flying the same route over and over again. I took my single engine and multi engine instrument commercial checkrides and the orals to both on the same day on three hours of sleep...but those were done on adrenaline. tired 

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RE: Ever Fallen Asleep While Piloting An Airplane?

Sun Mar 20, 2005 12:57 pm

A Buddy and i went from DBQ-DLH-MDW-DBQ last summer. On the DLH-MDW leg (it was long, and made longer by active MOA's) he fell asleep in the right seat for 25 mins or so and so when he woke up i asked him to handle things while itook a little cat nap. In the trinidad TB-20 the doors open up and are all glass, and so in the summer time that thing heats can't not get sleepy.
Do you like movies about gladiators?
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RE: Ever Fallen Asleep While Piloting An Airplane?

Sun Mar 20, 2005 2:28 pm

I've heard it's not uncommon on commercial flights either. Generally it's an accepted practice on long hauls(without beds and extra crew members) as long as it's established that one pilot is awake and will stay awake, and never for a long period of time.
PHX based
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RE: Ever Fallen Asleep While Piloting An Airplane?

Sun Mar 20, 2005 3:25 pm

When I worked for a commuter in the midwest, the chief pilot would fall asleep on HIS leg. I always knew when he did because his head would snap up to about 30 degrees above the horizon and the 10 o'clock position.

At my next commuter job, one captain would tell me I had the airplane and doze off on the long legs--usually only for 10-15 minutes. One time, he stayed asleep until we were inside the FAF at SAN. There's no way to put the gear down quietly on a Shorts 360.  Wink

Many of us catnapped on redeyes on the 767--but only after advising the other pilot so they could step up their awareness. It worked great. They hysteria over "sleeping pilots" is just that--hysteria. It's like anything else in aviation. If you do it right, it's safe. If you do it wrong, it's not safe.TC
FL450, M.85
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RE: Ever Fallen Asleep While Piloting An Airplane?

Sun Mar 20, 2005 7:32 pm

Yes I have... it's been a long land/sea journey with delays and then we got emergency (fuel cap blew open) and a near miss with a jet. After that, we took off again, and while about to enter cruise, the next thing I remember was I woke up 15 minutes later with the whole plane shaking (thanks to moisture/water in fuel due to one tank left open thanks to the incident). Was co-piloting a C402B... Those were the naughty days  Smile

When losing situational awareness, pray Cumulus Granitus isn't nearby !

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