Pilots Nap While A320 Drifts Off Course


The 32-year-old captain of a Batik Air A320 and his 28-year-old FO (and the new father of month-old twins) have been suspended after they both fell asleep and the aircraft drifted off course. The Airbus, with 159 people on board, took off from Kendari, on the island of Sulawesi, for the 2.55-hour flight to Jakarta on Jan. 25.

About a half-hour later after reaching cruise, the captain asked the FO for permission to nap in his seat and nodded off for an hour. He woke and asked the FO if he wanted to take a rest but the FO declined and the captain went back to sleep. The FO subsequently “inadvertently fell asleep” according to Indonesian authorities and the two slumbered together for at least 28 minutes before the caption woke up and got the plane back on course.

“Several attempts to contact BTK6723 had been made by the Jakarta ACC including asking other pilots to call the BTK6723,” the report by the Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee said. “None of the calls were responded to by the BTK6723 pilots.” The report also said it had ruled out pilot fitness as a factor but did note that the FO had reported trouble sleeping at home and that he had moved residences the day before the flight.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. Not good, not good, However, all ended well. But it did happen in an Airbus A320. Boeing leadership can uncurl their toes. ✌️

  2. Having logged circa 3000 hours in an A320 I can certainly attest to how comfortable the cockpit is !

  3. Mesa Airlines flight (February 13, 2008): Both the captain and FO fell asleep during a flight in a Bombardier CL-600-2B19 from Honolulu, Hawaii to Hilo, Hawaii. They flew past the destination airport by 26 miles before the pilots awoke.

  4. Some car makers are installing monitors in their cars that will alert the driver if he dozes off or is distracted for more than a few seconds. Maybe airplane manufacturers should consider doing the same. Getting a good night’s sleep with a newborn can be a real challenge, but what’s the captain’s excuse?

  5. I used to end my brief to a new First Officer with “No matter what else happens, Do Not let me wake up and find you asleep”!

  6. I believe some of the Garmin avionics suites do contain a feature that displays a kind of ‘are you there?’ message if the pilot hasn’t touched any screens or controls in a reasonable amount of time. I believe they designed it more to deal with hypoxia rather than simply napping, but I guess it works for both.

  7. Time to mandate “Garmin Autoland” in all airliners. If the AI see you sleeping it just takes over and lands on schedule. No Harm No Foul.

  8. Dogs nap as well…
    The old electric streetcars had a “deadman switch” which would bring things to a halt quickly if the driver let his foot slip off the pedal. Maybe a canister of skunk gas would do the same as well as having a deterrent effect.

  9. Must be something wrong at Airbus! Shut ’em down! What an awful culture! We’re all going to die merely because they continue to exist!

    Oh wait… that’s inappropriate.

    Never Mind……

    (with apologies to Miss Emily Litella – late of SNL Weekend Update)