Sleeping on the job at 36,000 feet

Sleeping on the job at 36,000 feet

There was a rather bizarre story which emerged recently of an Indonesian domestic flight on which for half an hour both pilots were fast asleep at the same time.

On the flight from Kendari in Sulawesi to Jakarta the senior pilot asked his co-pilot to take over while he had a nap. When the senior pilot later awoke he found the co-pilot had also fallen asleep and the plane cruising off-course at 36,000 feet. Air traffic controllers had been frantically trying to get in touch with the airliner for the previous half an hour but there had been no response.

Thankfully the plane with its 153 passengers went on to land safely in Jakarta. The airline later explained that the co-pilot had one-month-old twins and after a sleepless night had "inadvertently" nodded off. It's a reminder of the things we take for granted when we board a plane. For a start we usually hope the pilots are awake.

I must admit my primary concern when boarding an aircraft is getting off at the other end. Anything else is a bonus.

The prodder

Whatever transport you are taking you hope the person at the helm doesn't fall asleep. I recall being aboard a packed bus from Korat to Khon Kaen on a blisteringly hot day back in the 1970s. I was the only foreigner and had been given the dubious honour of sitting in the front left seat usually reserved for monks and not a place I would have taken by choice.

I noticed the teenage bus boy was holding a lengthy stick and was puzzled as to its purpose. After about 10 minutes I discovered to my alarm that the bus boy used the stick to prod the driver in the ribs when he started to doze off. This was happening at increasingly frequent intervals and with 10-wheeled trucks and buses thundering towards us (no dual carriageway in those days) it was quite unnerving.

Of course all the other passengers were fast asleep without a care in the world. I don't think I took my eyes off the driver's face the entire journey, but fortunately each time he went on the nod the ever-alert bus boy gave him a prod before turning to me with a big grin.

That three-hour trip was the longest period of sustained highway terror I have experienced and never have I been more relieved to get off a bus than when we finally rattled to a halt in Khon Kaen.

Puzzling pants

Not for the first time I have been defeated by a crossword and to make things worse it was not the more challenging cryptic but the Saturday "easy" puzzle. The clue that sunk me was "calf-length trousers (5, 7)". It sounded so simple but was beyond me. The next day I checked out the answer which was "pedal pushers".

When it comes to trousers. I'm familiar with strides, slacks, pants, bell-bottoms, flares, hipsters, drainpipes and breeches, but I have never come across "pedal pushers". Apparently they were popular in the 1950s and 60s originally with cyclists but became fashionable amongst young women. They were also known as "clam diggers" because you can wear such a garment without it getting wet in the unlikely event you are digging for clams.

In 1958 Carl Perkins recorded "Pink Pedal Pushers" which you can listen to on YouTube if you so desire. There was also a novelty number entitled "Skin Tight, Pin Striped, Purple Pedal Pushers" which I am happy to say I haven't had the pleasure of hearing.

Singin' in the rain

On Wednesday morning I awoke in Bangkok to the delicate sound of thunder accompanied by raindrops which was very welcome after battling the stifling heat of recent weeks. Although it was only a couple of mango showers the rain at least cooled things down a trifle and hopefully made some inroads into the appalling air pollution.

I get the feeling we will need every drop of rain we can get this year. To encourage Jupiter Pluvius, let's remind ourselves of the classic song that started it all, "Singin' in the Rain" performed by Gene Kelly in the 1952 film of the same name.

Splashing his way through puddles and swinging from a lamp post Kelly's performance is all the more remarkable because he was suffering from a fever. The creative way he uses an umbrella as a prop in his dance routine is remarkable and should make all brolly owners proud.

As a tribute to Kelly's performance, in London's Leicester Square there is a statue of him swinging from the lamp post. There is no need for Hollywood special weather effects as England generously provides its own rain and puddles.

Rooftop trinity

Just a reminder. I'll be attending a signing session for my new book Beyond Nowhere on Friday along with two other authors, Jon Prichard and Peter Bond.

It will take place at the O'Shea's Irish Pub on Sukhumvit Soi 33/1. Please take the lift to the rooftop. The evening begins at 5pm and will continue until we get thrown out by the band.

Anyone who buys one of our books will get a free beer. The book can also be bought locally online at

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Roger Crutchley

Bangkok Post columnist

A long time popular Bangkok Post columnist. In 1994 he won the Ayumongkol Literary Award. For many years he was Sports Editor at the Bangkok Post.

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