China Airlines pilot punished for sleeping in cockpit

China Airlines pilot punished for sleeping in cockpit

China Airlines, Taiwan’s biggest carrier, says it has punished a pilot after a video of him taking a nap in the cockpit mid-flight was posted online.

His co-pilot, who filmed the incident, has also been reprimanded, local television station SETN reported.

In the video, a middle-aged man in a pilot uniform and headphones appears to be asleep with his head down and eyes closed while in the cockpit of a Boeing 747.

The footage drew attention after it was shown in a report on Taiwanese TV network EBC on Wednesday. The man was identified as Weng Jiaqi, a senior pilot with almost 20 years of experience who was promoted to chief pilot last year.

It was unclear when or on which flight the video was filmed, but the airline confirmed that Weng had reported his behaviour and been punished while his co-pilot had been reprimanded for “improper behaviour”, SETN reported.

Weng, who also supervises training, is a short-haul pilot to cities including Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Tokyo, Okinawa and Seoul, according to the EBC report.

The incident comes after the airline last week reached a deal with the pilots’ union to end a seven-day strike over working conditions and benefits that forced the cancellation of more than 200 flights.

But China Airlines told EBC that the video was filmed before the pilots walked off the job.

The Taoyuan Union of Pilots began the industrial action on February 8, stranding close to 50,000 passengers and inflicting over NT$500 million (US$16.2 million) in losses on the carrier.

Under a deal signed on February 14, the union agreed not to strike again in the next 3½ years. In return, China Airlines agreed to the union’s main demand to increase the number of pilots on various flights to combat fatigue and improve safety.

The carrier will roster three pilots on flights of more than eight hours -- up from the present two -- and will have four pilots on flights over 12 hours, up from three.

China Airlines president Hsieh Shih-chien said the staffing increases were expected to sharply add to the cost of the company’s operations, but the carrier agreed to the terms in the interest of safety.


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