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REPORT: Two Pilots Fell Asleep On Flight, Prompting Officials To Ready Fighter Jets To Intercept Plane

REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo

Mary Rooke Staff Writer
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Investigators found that two airline pilots were asleep in the cockpit on an April flight from New York City to Rome while the plane was in the air.

Investigators said the ITA Airways co-pilot fell asleep during his scheduled sleeping break but that the captain fell asleep while he was supposed to be monitoring the plane, reported ABC 7.

The Airbus 330 left John F. Kennedy International Airport on April 30, carrying about 250 passengers. The plane stopped responding to air traffic controllers for approximately 10 minutes while flying over France, causing the country to engage fighter jets over terrorism fears, the outlet reported.

ITA Airways said that although both pilots were sleeping, the passengers on board the aircraft were still safe. (RELATED: Officials Search Through Rubble For Bodies After Plane Carrying 22 People Crashes Into Mountains)

“All rules and safety procedures were carefully followed in compliance with the highest standards, with the usual support of advanced onboard technology, thus guaranteeing the highest level of safety for the passengers,” ITA Airways told AeroTime.

“The plane can still fly on autopilot, but this is not smart or safe,” ABC News contributing aviation analyst John Nance said. The pilots could have fallen asleep when expected to monitor weather and fuel status, making it “extremely dangerous,” he added, according to ABC 7.

The airline fired the captain after the investigation found contradictions between his statement and the investigation results, reported AeroTime. ITA Airways said the pilot displayed behavior that “did not comply with the procedures in force both during the flight and once landed,” the outlet reported.

The airline highlighted “strong inconsistencies between the statements made by the captain and the outcome of the internal investigations,” according to the outlet.