2 pilots reportedly fell asleep on ITA Airways flight from JFK to Rome as plane traveled 38,000 feet above ground, investigators say

NEW YORK — Two airline pilots reportedly fell asleep on a flight from New York to Rome last month while their plane was still in the air with as many as 250 passengers on board, investigators have found.

The investigation revealed that the two pilots of an ITA Airways flight departing John F. Kennedy International Airport on April 30 reportedly slept in the cockpit as their Airbus 330 flew at 38,000 feet above France.

While a pilot slept during his designated sleep break, the plane’s captain also fell asleep, investigators said.

Air traffic controllers told investigators they lost contact with the plane for about 10 minutes. Amid fears of a terrorist incident, they prepared fighter jets to intercept the plane, but the pilots eventually responded.

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John Nance, an aviation analyst contributing to ABC News, called the situation “extremely dangerous”, especially if the pilots were unable to monitor weather conditions and the plane’s fuel status. .

“The plane can still fly on autopilot, but it’s not smart or safe,” he said.

ITA Airways, formerly known as Alitalia, said the captain claimed the radios had stopped working, but investigators found “strong inconsistencies between the statements made by the captain and the outcome of the investigation. internal,” according to a statement.

The Italian airline said in a statement that the captain’s behavior “did not comply with the rules dictated by the company”.

The plane still managed to land safely in Rome, and ITA Airways has since fired the captain.

In April, pilots at Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines urged airlines to address pilot fatigue amid rising travel demand and staff shortages.

“Fatigue, both acute and cumulative, has become Southwest Airlines’ primary safety threat,” the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, or SWAPA, told airline executives in a letter.

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