Last night Adèle and I watched Flight. (Spoiler follows.) It starts out with Denzel Washington piloting a passenger plane that hits a storm and then goes into a steep nose dive, and because it's Denzel you know you're going to be OK while simultaneously fearing for your safety. It's like one of those runaway train movies we need more of. But after he turns the plane upside down and flies it like that for a while, Denzel manages to land in a field and all but four of the lives on board are saved. The film then ambles along for the rest of its course before turning into a disquisition on the perils of alcoholism.
It put me in mind of recent reports in the national press about pilot fatigue (£):
More than half of all airline pilots have fallen asleep on the flight deck and one in three has woken to find their co-pilot asleep, according to a survey raising new fears about safety.
Eight out of ten pilots think that their flying abilities have been compromised by lack of sleep in the past six months, the poll showed.
Almost half, 49 per cent, said that tiredness was the biggest threat to airline safety, more than three times more than any other risk.
The poll, commissioned by the British Airline Pilots' Association, was released as it emerged that both pilots on a Virgin Atlantic flight from Orlando to Manchester last month fell asleep at the controls of their Airbus A330.
I do not find this at all reassuring. You might even say it's counter-productive:
The CAA [Civil Aviation Authority] report warned of aircrew suffering from symptoms of severe fatigue which one of the pilots ascribed to "longer duty periods with insufficient opportunity to sleep".
What is the point of the elaborate measures designed to foil terrorist plots that are targeted against air traffic if the airlines aren't letting their pilots get enough sleep? The British Airline Pilots Association argue 'that new leeway to land a plane after 22 hours without sleep would mean a level of tiredness that equates to being four times over the legal alcohol limit for flying'. Yikes. Why isn't there more public concern? Why is there calm rather than alarm? I mean, one day the sleeping pilots might not be Denzel Washington.