Sleeping Pilots Awake To F-16s


This might define the term “rude awakening” for pilots. Various media sources are reporting that two Delta Air Lines pilots commanding a flight from Germany to Kuwait fell asleep at the controls of their Boeing 767-400ER and only woke up after flight attendants banged on the cockpit door to tell them there were two Greek F-16s on their wing. To make matters worse, the incident occurred only a few hours after EgyptAir Flight 804 disappeared in the same general area. We’ve asked Delta for confirmation of the sleeping part but so far the airline has only issued the following reassuring statement: “While transiting to Greek airspace, the flight crew of Delta flight 8957, a charter operation from Hahn, Germany to Kuwait, was unable to establish radio communications with Greek air traffic control for a short period. This occurred during a handoff between air traffic control agencies and communications were expeditiously re-established. At no point did the Boeing 767-400ER leave its planned route of flight.”

In the cabin, however, things were apparently not so calm, according to media reports. After repeated attempts by ATC to contact the airliner with no result, the F-16s were scrambled. The fighter pilots tried to raise the big Boeing on the radio and when that didn’t work, they tried lights and hand signals from abeam the aircraft. They reportedly could clearly see the snoozing pilots. When the fighters moved up beside the airliner, they were, of course, in full view of the passengers, who alerted the flight attendants. It apparently took a few raps on the cockpit door to rouse one of the pilots. The aircraft landed routinely at its destination but it’s likely that things will be anything but routine for the pilots for the next while.