FAA probes whether go! pilots fell asleep
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating whether go! airlines pilots fell asleep when a flight overshot the Hilo Airport by 15 miles.
Flight 1002 left Honolulu about 9:20 a.m. last Wednesday and was scheduled to land in Hilo at 10:05 a.m. However, a source close to the investigation said the plane drifted off course by 15 miles before turning back to Hilo Airport.
There was also a 25-minute period where ground crews in Hilo could not get a hold of the flight crew, the source said.
Officials from Mesa Air Group Inc., the Arizona-based parent company of the airline, confirmed the incident and is conducting its own internal probe.
"The issue is currently under investigation and we're cooperating fully with the Federal Aviation Administration in that regard," said Paul Skellon, Mesa's vice president of communications. "Until such time the investigation is complete, we have no further comment."
The flight landed safely and FAA investigators are trying to find out the reasons behind the communication blackout and why the plane drifted off-course.
"We're looking into whether the flight crew -- the pilot and co-pilot -- had fallen asleep between Honolulu and Hilo," said FAA spokesman Ian Gregor.
He declined to comment on details of the case. In general, Gregor said, pilots who are found to have violated federal air regulations face penalties ranging from warning letters to license suspensions or revocations.
A high-profile case involving pilots asleep in the cockpit emerged late last year during a congressional hearing. On a March 2004 flight between Baltimore and Denver, two commercial pilots allegedly fell asleep, with one of the pilots waking up to calls from air traffic controllers that the plane was approaching the airport at twice the speed allowed.
The captain, in a report filed with NASA's Aviation Safety Reporting System, noted the plane was about 60 miles from Denver International Airport and was approaching a point where it was to begin its descent when he woke up.