It’s not just airlines in the United States making headlines for being incompetent or putting their passengers’ lives at risk; others are getting there too.
Case in point: A pilot in Pakistan has reportedly come under investigation for taking a nap during a long-haul international flight.
There were 305 people aboard the aircraft — 293 in the economy and 12 in the club class — when Captain Amir Akhtar Hashmi, a senior pilot for Pakistan International Airline, handed over the control of the plane to First Officer Mohammad Asad Ali, whom he was supposed to be training.
Shortly after London-bound flight PK-785 took off from the Islamabad airport, the pilot left the cockpit, went to the first-class cabin and buried himself under a blanket, falling asleep in his uniform.
According to the local media, Hashmi was asleep for over two hours while the trainee pilot flew the airplane.
It was a potentially deadly decision, which would have gone completely unnoticed had it not been for a passenger who saw the sleeping pilot and alerted a senior flight attendant, informing them of the situation. The unidentified passenger also snapped a picture, which later went viral.
“Passenger (Seat 1D) complained that while the captain was sleeping in the business class cabin, [the passenger did not] feel safe. It had been explained that two other crew members were in the cockpit, but he said that he would follow the matter and write down a complaint card as well,” said the flight report, according to local English newspaper Dawn.
Neither the trainee pilot nor the first officer aboard reported the incident to the management, presumably in order to protect Hashmi who not only served as the president of Pakistan Air Lines Pilots Association but is also considered an influential figure in the company.
Even the airline was reportedly reluctant to take action against the captain, but it later caved in and suspended him.
“This is not the first time Mr. Hashmi has compromised the air safety of passengers,” wrote the newspaper. “During his tenure as PALPA president, he had many times flown long-haul transatlantic flights without resting for the prescribed duration before the start of the journey, and gotten away with it.”
As it turns out, Hashmi was once reported for going on several long-haul flights without taking adequate breaks, although he was never disciplined.
The PIA flight was definitely lucky to land safely in London, because a similar incident back in 2009, where both Air France pilot and first officer fell asleep after giving the control to a second co-pilot, resulted in a horrible crash, killing all 228 passengers on board.