Pilots May Have Napped On 45-Minute Hop
The FAA wants to know if the flight crew onboard a recent go!
Airlines flight took a nap at 21,000 feet over Hawaii.
According to news reports, Flight 1002 from Honolulu to Hilo
started off normally last Wednesday... but one passenger noticed
something unusual onboard what was supposed to be a short,
early-morning 45-minute interisland hop.
"When I noticed we weren't descending I told my wife, she was
sitting on the left, I mentioned to her I think something is kind
of weird with this flight pattern," passenger Derrick Lining told
Sources tell the television station the plane stayed at 21,000
feet as it overflew Hilo, still on autopilot, and went off track 15
miles out to sea before the CRJ-200 turned back towards land.
FAA spokesman Ian Gregor says the incident was certainly
unusual... and admits one likely scenario rises above others. "We
are investigating whether the pilot and copilot of an interisland
go! Airlines flight fell asleep while the plane was in the air
between Honolulu and Hilo," said Gregor.
Airline analyst Peter
Foreman says such incidents have happened before. In one widely-reported case,
two commercial pilots apparently fell asleep on a March 2004 flight
between Baltimore and Denver, with one pilot waking up to "frantic"
calls from air traffic controllers warning them they were
approaching the airport at twice the speed allowed. The event was
reported by the captain on the flight on NASA's Aviation Safety
Reporting System (ASRS), and made the rounds throughout the media
But Foreman says the go! incident raises a number of new
questions -- namely, why did the pilots fall asleep on such a short
"For both pilots to fall asleep at 9 o'clock in the morning that
seems pretty strange," he said. "Even if there was communications
failure that jet should have started down for the destination and
it didn't. So those pilots have a lot of explaining to do."
Mesa Air Group launched its go! Airlines service in Hawaii in
2006, with the intent of taking a big chunk out of the business of
established players Hawaiian Airlines and Aloha Airlines. Offering
cut-rate fares, the airline arguably succeeded in that
mission... but at a high price.
In October 2007, a US Bankruptcy Court judge ruled Mesa
illegally used confidential information obtained from Hawaiian in
bankruptcy proceedings to launch go!... and ordered Mesa to cough
up $80 million. That ruling contributed to an operating loss for
Mesa of $62.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2007.
Mesa flies as Delta Connection, US Airways Express, United
Express, go!, and Mesa Airlines. The airline recently made
headlines for reported pilot staffing and morale issues, that
representatives with the Air Line Pilots Association claim have
reached critical levels and are negatively impacting Mesa
In January, the union claimed
over 500 pilots left Mesa last year alone, causing flight delays