The linked article, from Reuters, reports that, when 500 British Commercial Pilots were surveyed, 56% said that they had fallen asleep in the cockpit. Also, one-in-three reported that, when they woke up. they noticed that the other pilot was asleep, as well. So, who’s driving this bus, huh? The linked Reuters article is: http://www.reuters.com/assets/print?aid=USL5N0HN1CJ20130927. But, at least the Brits are honest.
As the article notes, (U.K.) commercial airline pilots are currently limited to 95 flying hours in a 14 day period, and no more than ten hours on a given day. Now, think about that. Pilots that I have known have had to take a plane to the city from which they would be flying and, perhaps, wait for the plane to arrive before they can pilot it to their destination. So, the proverbial six-to-eight hour day can really be a much longer day than you might think.
Now, consider 95 hours divided by 14 days, which equals 6.79 hours; but, that’s just the flight time–EVERY ONE OF THOSE DAYS. Think about it: overseas flights can even require longer periods in the cockpit.
Now, the European Union is attempting to standardize the flight time requirements for all pilots in the EU. That would require a maximum of 110 hours in a fourteen day period.
And nighttime flying could last up to eleven hours, rather than the current U.K. limit (10).
Let’s put this into context. The 95 hour “fortnight” (14 days) limit would enable a pilot to fly 6.79 hours (cockpit time), plus the time and aggravation getting to the airport and, perhaps, flying to his/her take-off point. That could be for every one of those fourteen days–without a day-off. So, doesn’t that make the E.U.’s standardized 110 hours seem all the more ridiculous? Perhaps dangerous is a better word?
FAA pilot limitations for commercial pilots in the U.S. are drastically less: 1,000 hours in a calendar year; 30 hours in a month, and with a further limitation of 34 hours in seven consecutive days.
NOTE: Remember that the automatic pilot doesn’t actually fly the plane. It just attempts to keep it stable; but, it cannot make adjustments for wind, turbulence, etc.