Severe fatigue has been blamed for a pilot falling asleep on an early morning flight to King Island last year.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau found the pilot on board the Vortex Air Piper aircraft had not slept for 24 hours when he was flying to King Island from Devonport on November 8, 2018.
The Australian Transport Commission tried to wake the sleeping pilot but it didn't work. After flying almost 80 kilometres past his destination on autopilot he woke and turned back to King Island.
The aircraft landed without incident. However, after talking with the operator, the pilot then flew from King Island to Moorabbin to complete his shift.
The ATSB found that the pilot had been awake for about 24 hours and had been unable to sleep during a scheduled rest period before the incident flight. Analysis confirmed the pilot’s fatigue was at a level known to effect performance.
The pilot had not modified his sleep pattern in preparation for the planned night shift, contributing to his fatigue.
“This investigation highlights the need for pilots to assess their level of fatigue before and during their flight,” said ATSB Executive Director, Transport Safety, Mr Nat Nagy.
“Before commencing night operations pilots are encouraged to modify their usual sleep routines to ensure they are adequately rested.”
The incident has prompted a warning to both pilots and airline operators about the dangers of fatigue.