Even though we’re all aware that auto-pilot is flying our aircraft the vast majority of our trip, it’s always reassuring to know that there’s a pilot sitting behind the controls, ready to spring into action in case something goes wrong. Even better, there are usually two pilots up in the cockpit prepared to take charge. So news that a packed airplane heading to the UK was left on auto-pilot as both pilots fell asleep is a little unsettling.
The British Civil Aviation Authority has revealed that the pilot and co-pilot flying an Airbus A330 on an unnamed airline had decided to take turns napping. However, at some point during the flight, one pilot woke from his nap to discover the other pilot was fast asleep. The pilots voluntarily reported the incident which happened in mid-August this year. It’s believed the pair had only gotten about five hours of sleep over the two nights prior to the flight.The incident has sparked debate over pilot fatigue and mandatory rest periods between flights. Proposed changes in Europe would actually mean pilots could go even longer before getting a break, and includes rules like allowing pilots to land a plane after having been awake for 22 hours. The UK pilot’s association, Balpa, is fighting the changes.
Passengers on Virgin Atlantic will soon be able to make in-flight cellphone calls, send texts and browse the web on their way home from Europe, it was just announced. The new service is part of the airline’s upgrade to the Airbus A330, which will also provide expanded in-flight entertainment, USB ports and a very spiffy upper class. Cellphone service will initially be available only on London to New York flights, but will be expanded to more cities by the year’s end. There are a lot of caveats, however: you’ll need to be on a Vodafone or O2 network, only 10 calls will be allowed at one time and service won’t be cheap. Calls will cost 1 GBP per minute and texts 20p each. You’ll also still need to turn off your devices for takeoff and landing, and turn them off within 250 miles of US airspace, so no flight-long games of Words With Friends.
Gadling readers: would you use this service? Do you think it’s any improvement over the old-school in-flight phones? Or will it just be another amazing innovation that no one appreciates?
[Photo courtesy Flickr user Highways Agency]
A Qantas Airbus A330-300 flew through what airline staff referred to as a “severe meteorological incident”.
The “incident” was actually bad turbulence, and it was so severe that the plane plummeted, sending passengers into the ceiling.
The flight was en route from Hong Kong to Perth when it hit the turbulence. Because the drop was so sudden, the flight crew did not have the time to warn passengers to be strapped in, though it does underline how important it is to have your seat belt buckled at all times.
It isn’t hard to see some similarities between this flight and the recent crash of Air France flight 447 – especially since both were on the exact same type of plane.
Planes often rely on information from other aircraft on the same route to report on turbulence, but if the route is not very busy, it may be hours between reports.
Bad turbulence can cause severe injuries, a collection of some of the most recent incidents involving bad turbulence can be found in the gallery posted below:
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