You all will recall that back in February an aircraft flying in the Hawaiian Islands had overflown Hilo airport and were suspected of falling asleep at the yoke. Well, now it is confirmed. Both the Captain of the aircraft, Scott Oltman and Second Officer Dillon Shepley confirmed that they had fallen asleep for about 18 minutes on the short hop from Honolulu to Hilo.
After first concoting a story about what happened (wrong com frequency, missed handoff - you get the picture) the pilots finally admitted to falling asleep. They claimed that because the stewardess for the first flight of the day was late the crew was "stressed" until they finally got on schedule for the third flight of the day. According to Captain Oltman they relaxed and with the Hawaiian sun beaming in promptly fell asleep.
However, it turns out that the problem was more severe than this. It turns out that Captain Oltman has a condition called severe sleep apnea, which causes those afflicted to repeatedly stop breathing while trying to sleep... a condition his physician said could cause "significant fatigue." Oltman also confessed that he frequently would take short naps while cruising at altitude while flying inside the Continental US.
What does this mean for all of us pilots? Well, let's hope the feds don't decide to test all of us for this condition, nor issue rules. As you can read from the Wikipedia article referenced above this condition has considerable variation, and my guess is most times is not a problem.
In any case - stay awake my friends! We want to keep flying, even if Congress thinks we are a luxury!
Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!
In response to how he checked the weather, "I just whip out my blue card with a hole in it and read what it says: 'When color of card matches color of sky, FLY!'"
— Gordon Baxter