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Half of All Airline Pilots Admit to Falling Asleep While Flying

Pilots falling asleep
Carsten Koall/Getty Images

Let’s face it, we’ve all come pretty close to nodding off at work. However, there are certain professions — say, airline pilot — where taking a quick snooze just isn’t acceptable.

And yet, a new study suggests that a staggering number of airline pilots in Europe have actually fallen asleep while at the controls. The European Cockpit Association (ECA) surveyed 6,000 pilots from eight different countries and found that between 43-54 percent admitted to having fallen asleep “involuntarily” while flying an aircraft. Even more disconcerting, a third of these said they found their co-pilot asleep when they woke up.

The ECA says the study shows that pilot fatigue is a “common, dangerous and under-reported phenomenon in Europe.”

The report comes only weeks after a new proposal from the European Aviation Safety Agency was announced, which aims to allow pilots to fly up to 22 hours without sleep. Shortly after the new proposal was issued, British officials voiced concerns that the new regulations could “set a standard that accepts a higher level of fatigue more generally and, if not managed properly, could well lead to a situation where the accident risk will increase.

While pilot fatigue is a known problem in the U.K., the report claims that it’s even worse in other parts of Europe. In Sweden, Norway and Denmark, for example, three out of five pilots reported making mistakes due to exhaustion. In Germany, the figure was four out of five.

If pilot fatigue is such a huge problem in Europe, imagine what it must be like here in the U.S. Think about that next time you board a plane. Now if you’ll excuse us, we have a flight to cancel.

Next: Speaking of Bad Choices, Check Out This Drunk Driving Doctor

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