Report: Pilots Fell Asleep During Approach To DIA

Pilot Blamed Incident On Fatigue

A commercial pilot and his first officer fell asleep while approaching Denver International Airport in an A319 Airbus jet, going twice the speed as allowed, according to a federal safety Web site.

The incident, which occurred on March 4, 2004, was one of several incidents that was brought out during a congressional hearing on airline safety in Washington this week.

Rep. Bart Gordon , D-Tenn., wanted to know why this information was available on a public Web site where pilots anonymously report the incidents themselves, while NASA wasn't willing to release it as part of a larger survey.

NASA had initially refused to release its National Aviation Operations Monitoring Service survey, saying it could make the public unnecessarily afraid to fly.

In the report filed by the pilot, who was not identified, he said he was flying a red-eye, overnight flight from Denver to Baltimore, and after he landed at Baltimore, he sat on the ground for one hour before he flew back to Denver.

"No rest. Just straight seven hours and 55 minute-flight to Baltimore and back. On this particular day in March 2004, after two previous red-eyes, this being the third red-eye in a row, the last 45 minutes of the flight, I fell asleep and so did the first officer," the pilot wrote.

"Missed all the calls from Air Traffic Control to meet crossing restrictions (where pilots have to be at a certain altitude at a certain location) at the DANDD intersection (the intersection in the sky) in the southeast corridor to Denver. The crossing restriction to be at DANDD was to be at flight level 19,000 and 250 knots. Instead we crossed DANDD at 35,000 feet at Mach .82 (approximately 590 mph)," the pilot continued.

That means that the aircraft was speeding towards DIA's crowded airspace with no one awake at the wheel.

"I woke up, why I don't know, and heard frantic calls from Air Traffic Control approximately 5 nautical miles inside DANDD (about 5 miles past DANND)," the pilot said.

"I answered Air Traffic Control and abided by all instructions to get down. Woke first officer up, started down to flight level 22,000 feet as instructed ... Landed in Denver with no further incidents," the pilot wrote.

The pilot attributed the incident to "pilot fatigue and hopefully, (the) company is in process of changing these trip pairings."

The airline was not identified, but only United and Frontier fly Airbus A319s out of DIA.

A United spokeswoman said the airline had no report of such an incident and the airline did not have a "red eye" flight between Baltimore and Denver.

A Frontier spokesman said his airline did have a "red eye" flight between Baltimore and Denver but told the Rocky Mountain News that but the company could not find a report of the alleged incident on the date mentioned.

The report was filed in NASA's Aviation Safety Reporting System, a public self-reporting site known as ASRA. The site is designed to improve flight safety by allowing anonymous reports to be made.

After the Washington hearing, NASA administrator Michael Griffin told lawmakers that he could release survey information by the end of the year, although certain identifying information would have to be deleted to prevent lawsuits.

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