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FUN TIME: PILOTS NEED THEIR SLEEP, TOO

Compiled/partly written by Melvin Durai Email Compiled/partly written by Melvin Durai
April 2015
FUN TIME: PILOTS NEED THEIR SLEEP, TOO

Getting adequate sleep is important for us, especially if we have jobs that require great concentration. That’s why I fully understand why Air India pilots have requested flat beds on Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

According to a report in The Economic Times, Air India will likely ask Boeing to have bunks installed in six of the 27 Dreamliners that the airline will receive after mid-2015. Having permanent bunks will save pilots a lot of trouble. Rolling out a mat in the first class aisle gets tiresome after a while.

The bunks will be particularly useful during flights of 12 hours or more, such as the ones from New Delhi to Melbourne, Toronto, and New York. While one pair of pilots flies the Dreamliner, the other pair can do a little dreaming.

Sleeping flat on your back is considered 100 percent rest, compared to the partial rest you get on a reclined seat. Never mind that you have to block out all the typical sounds on a plane: the noise of the engine, the crying of babies, the snoring of the man in the seat next to you. Just ask my wife and she’ll tell you how often she has to complain to me, “Stop snoring or I’ll move to another seat!”

Nonstop flights have become fairly common in the last few years, allowing people to fly from New York to New Delhi in about 14 hours. If they’re lucky enough to fly in business class, they can be fully rested and smiling from ear to ear when they disembark, having slept on flatbed seats. If they fly economy class, they can be fully exhausted and eager to bite off a business class passenger’s ear.

Even if passengers have trouble getting good sleep on a flight, we should all be glad that Air India and other airlines are making sure their pilots get enough sleep and are fully alert in the cockpit. Being a passenger on an ultra-long flight is hard enough without having to hear a message like this over the intercom:

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. This is your captain speaking. Thank you for flying with us from New York to New Delhi. I regret to inform you that due to unforeseen circumstances, the plane has strayed a little off course. We expected to be flying over Afghanistan right now, with New Delhi only three hours away. But it appears, from all indications, that we are flying over Australia, with New Zealand only three hours away. When I say ‘from all indications,’ I mean that we just looked down and spotted three kangaroos. Please don’t worry: we will get you to New Delhi as soon as possible. We promised you a nonstop flight, so we’re going to try our best to make it over the Pacific and Indian oceans with whatever fuel we have left. If we do need to make an emergency landing, we have made arrangements with the island nation of Fiji. Don’t worry: there will be no extra charge for visiting this beautiful country. Please enjoy the rest of the flight. And if you’re not reading a book or watching a movie, please look out the window. You may be able to help us find the missing Malaysian Airlines plane.”

It may seem unlikely for a commercial airliner to go off course, but trust me, it occurs more often than you realize. Here’s what usually happens though: The pilots wake up, realize that the plane has gone off course, and, adhering strictly to airline procedures, curse each other for a few minutes.

Pilot: “What’s wrong with you? I fell asleep thinking that you would stay awake!”

Co-pilot: “I did the same!”

Pilot: “What should we do? Make an announcement that we’re approaching New Guinea instead of New Delhi?”

Co-pilot: “Don’t be silly. Just make a turn and fly twice as fast as usual. We’ll be a little late, but that’s okay. We’re Indians after all.”

Pilot: “Brilliant idea!”

Co-pilot: “Thank you. Will you please carry it out? I need to get a little more sleep.”



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