How do pilots sleep on long night flights?

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Whether or not pilots can sleep on a night flight, the simple answer is yes. However, there are strict regulations to control the pilot’s sleep.

Pilots typically only sleep on long-haul flights, although they are allowed to rest on short-haul flights as well. Pilot sleep can be divided into two categories: controlled rest and bed sleep. Pilots are allowed to sleep in the cockpit for controlled recovery; When sleeping in bed, they are allowed to leave the cockpit to either exit the passenger compartment (reserved seats for pilots in first or business class) or “secret” sleeping quarters reserved for the crew.

Pilots take turns resting through the night on long-haul flights. This is common practice and standard in the aviation industry, as sleep has been shown to improve flight safety. Only then can the pilot get enough sleep and ensure the most difficult flight tasks such as landing. Controlled resting or sleeping in the pilot’s bed is common on long-haul overnight flights, especially after 4am. In long-haul wide-body aircraft, there are secret bunk beds for the crew without the passengers knowing about it. One of the two pilots on the flight must stay awake at all times and deal with situations, machines and equipment. However, on some long-haul flights with around 3 or 4 pilots, the sleeping arrangements can be divided accordingly, helping each person to get enough rest during the flight. After takeoff for a while, the first pilot (who just took off) rests or sleeps for a certain amount of time, and then changes the other pilots. The remaining working time is divided equally between the members, up to about 1 hour before landing time everyone has to gather in the cockpit. The controlled sleep mode allows pilots to sleep up to 45 minutes when the cruise workload is light. According to, this helps pilots stay awake during the more critical moments of the flight. However, the ideal controlled rest period is around 10 to 20 minutes, while 30 to 60 minutes of sleep can cause drowsiness upon waking. There are principles when a pilot rests in flight, for example: a controlled rest must be agreed by two pilots and only one must sleep, the other must remain awake; had to sleep in that pilot’s seat; The seat must be pulled away from the controls. There is a risk that on an awake mission the pilot will most likely doze off. To avoid this, other crew members must remain in constant contact with the pilot. On some aircraft there is a warning button if some controls are not touched for a certain period of time. But there were times when both pilots fell asleep. BBC News cites a poll of pilots’ unions in which 29 per cent admitted waking up to find another pilot asleep. That means they both slept together for a moment. According to a CNN report, a rare instance occurred in 2008 when both the pilot and co-pilot fell asleep, resulting in a false landing in Hawaii. Imagine how disappointed passengers will be when your flight lands unexpectedly in Hawaii’s vacation paradise while you’re admiring the cherry blossoms in Japan. Both pilot licenses were immediately “revoked”. Another time, in 2017, the pilot was too tired after a long flight and almost crashed another plane at San Francisco International Airport, USA.

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