The two pilots on a go! Hawaii Airlines flight that overshot the airport in Hilo, Hawaii by 30 miles on Feb. 13, 2008, were asleep and unresponsive to multiple attempts by Air Traffic Control to communicate with them, the National Transportation Safety Board confirmed in its final report on the incident issued yesterday.
The weirdly named go! Hawaii is a subsidiary of Mesa Airlines, which contracts to provide regional airline flights to several major airlines.
The NTSB report firmly placed the blame for the incident on pilot fatigue, which is a huge issue brewing within commercial aviation, with its dependence on regional airlines. "The day of the incident was the third consecutive day that both pilots started duty at 0540," the NTSB said. It determined the probable cause of the incident as:
"The captain and first officer inadvertently falling asleep during the cruise phase of the flight. Contributing to the incident were the captain's undiagnosed obstructive sleep-apnea and the flight crew's recent work schedule, which included several consecutive days of early-morning start times."
In June, our increasingly worthless network and cable TV news outlets made a huge breathless deal out of the fact that a pilot died on a Continental flight from Brussels to Newark, even though there were two other pilots on deck at the time and they landed the plane routinely, without incident.
Pilot fatigue is the real issue in air travel safety these days, especially on the regional airlines that account for more than half of all flights, and which are often cost-cutting subcontractors flying on behalf of the major airlines.