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The adage, "asleep at the wheel" probably conjures thoughts of an absent-minded driver not paying attention to his or her surroundings. (For some, it may bring back memories of the 1970's country music group.) Regardless of what you think of, the image of airline pilots being asleep in the cockpit while the plane is in flight cannot be comforting.

As amazing as it may seem, that's what happened to a pair of pilots on a transatlantic flight. According to a BBC News report, the pilots who were en route to London from the U.S., were supposed to be taking turns with sleep breaks, when one of them woke up from a nap and noticed that the other (who was supposed to be monitoring instruments and weather patterns) was also asleep.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority, these instances are rare, but airline pilots claim otherwise. In fact, fatigue is a common element that pilots must deal with.

Just like commercial bus and trucking companies, airlines have a duty to use reasonable care in transporting passengers from one destination to another. This means that they must follow regulations concerning pilots' hours of service, so that they are not so fatigued that they make mistakes that could prove fatal. If an accident occurs that is due to a violation of these rules, the airline could be held liable, meaning that an injured party could seek monetary damages for a number of things stemming from a crash.

If you have questions about your legal rights after an airplane crash, an experienced personal injury attorney can help. 

Source:, Pilots 'asleep in cockpit' as passenger plane on auto, September 23, 2013

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