DALLAS – Yes, both pilots onboard ITA Airways’ (AZ) flight from New York to Rome were asleep at the same time and failed to maintain communication with air traffic control for about 10 minutes.
This particular incident took place on the first of May. AZ609 was a scheduled afternoon service between New York’s JFK and Rome (FCO) that was operated by an Airbus A330-200 under registration EI-EJP.
The departure was just like any other, but things went quiet in the cockpit towards the end of the flight, as media reports indicated that both the first officer and captain were asleep for a brief period and did not respond or communicate with air traffic control.
They were somewhere over France at FL380 and in contact with Marseille control – a rather busy center, especially in the summer months. Not to forget, the airbus was at cruise altitude and on autopilot while the incident took place.
The first officer was actually approved to sleep, or what’s known as “controlled rest”—a brief period in which a crew member can take a nap under certain conditions. But, the captain was surely not approved to follow.
Luckily it was short-lived, communications were re-established just before the french authorities were all set to dispatch a couple of fighter jets to intercept the A330 and figure out what was happening in the cockpit. The jet landed safely in Rome.
Italian media reports that the captain was dismissed from his service after that flight for breaching safety. The pilot, however, denied his nap allegation and stated that there was an issue with the radio communication system failure and thus he couldn’t reply.
Featured image: ITA Airways EI-EJO Airbus A330-200. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways