FAA suspends sleeping airline pilots

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by Associated Press

NWCN.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 1:33 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 24 at 12:35 PM

HONOLULU - Two pilots for Hawaii's Go airlines who slept through their flight's landing procedure were suspended for the careless and reckless operation of an aircraft, the Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday.

The pilots, who have been fired by Go, completed their suspensions on Sept. 9, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said. He did not know whether they are flying again with a different carrier.

Captain Scott Oltman, 54, who was also cited for failing to maintain radio communications, had his license suspended for 60 days. First Officer Dillon Shepley, 24, was suspended for 45 days.

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Gregor said no action was taken against Go because it did nothing wrong and provided the pilots with a 15-hour break before their shift, nearly double what the FAA requires.

The National Transportation Safety Board had determined the two pilots fell asleep on the Feb. 13 flight from Honolulu to Hilo.

Oltman was later diagnosed with a severe obstructive sleep apnea. It causes people to stop breathing repeatedly, preventing a restful night of sleep.

However, it was still unclear how both pilots fell asleep on the brief midmorning flight, which was carrying 40 passengers.

No problems were found after examining the aircraft's pressurization system and carbon monoxide levels.

The pilots failed to respond to nearly a dozen calls from air traffic controllers over a span of 17 minutes.

In recordings obtained by The Associated Press, the controller is heard repeatedly trying to contact the pilots and talks to the pilot of another Go flight in hopes of reaching Flight 1002.

"I'm worried he might be in an emergency situation," the controller says.

Finally, about 44 minutes into what is usually a 45-minute flight, the controller was able to establish radio contact. By that time, the plane had passed the airport at Hilo by 15 miles, and the controller ordered the flight crew to return.

The pilots were able to reverse course and landed safely at Hilo International Airport.

Go is an inter-island carrier run by Phoenix-based Mesa Air Group Inc. It declined to comment on the suspensions.

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