If you have ever travelled on a long haul flight, then you know how tiresome it can be, and how it can confuse your body and make you fatigued.
When travelling, you may end up in a completely different time zone to the one that you are used to, which can be very exhausting, as you may have boarded your flight at 10am, flown for 11 hours, and it is still only 1pm, but your body thinks otherwise!
This can make you wonder how pilots and airline crew cope with long days flying, or even multiple flights across different cities, countries and states.
This may lead you to ask whether pilots and flight crew sleep on a flight, and where they may do so.
Luckily, we are here to answer many of your aviation questions and queries.
Can a pilot sleep while flying?
The simple answer to this question is yes, pilots can sleep whilst flying, and are allowed to do so, but there are strict rules and regulations for safety reasons.
For the most part, pilots are only permitted to sleep during long haul flights to avoid exhaustion, and fatigue, however some short haul flights allow pilots to have quick sleep times in order to remain alert and awake.
However, there are set rules that have to be followed, but these may vary from airline to airline.
For the most part, there are two types of rests, these are called controlled rests, and bunk rests.
A controlled rest will be taken in the cockpit, or at the control, whereas a bunk rest will be taken in a separate place.
For instance, bunk rests can be taken in the passenger cabin, in a reserved seat where a pilot can take a break, or in a dedicated pilot bunk on a long haul aircraft.
These types of rests are provided for pilots in order to ensure that they are well rested, alert and ready to operate the aircraft.
This is considered best practice to ensure the safety of all of the cabin crew, and the passengers on board the flight.
However, it is important to note that there will always be another pilot alert and awake, when one is sleeping.
In some long haul flights, there may even be three or four pilots to make sure that each pilot has adequate breaks and rest periods.
What are the rules for pilots sleeping whilst flying?
The rules for pilots to follow when taking rests will vary depending on the airline company.
However, in most cases, the controlled rests (in the cockpit) will need to be agreed and discussed by the pilots first.
There should then be a predetermined time period agreed upon, and this is typically between 10-40 minutes.
In addition, before the pilot is allowed to take a controlled rest, they must fully brief the acting pilot of any duties or responsibilities that need to be undertaken during the period of single pilot control.
Another rule is that only one pilot is allowed to take a controlled rest at a time, and during this time, they will need to be away from the controls.
Then, once the controlled rest period has passed, there needs to be a small amount of time where the pilot cannot take control of the plane, until they have fully awoken, and are alert.
Pilots are also required to be fully awake for at least 15 minutes before any serious workload situations such as landing the plane.
So that there is no issue where the non-resting pilot falls asleep too, the rest of the cabin crew are alerted to a controlled rest period.
Therefore, they can regularly check in with the acting pilot, to ensure that someone is in control of the plane at all times.
Where do pilots sleep on a plane?
If a pilot is partaking in a controlled rest, then they may have a short sleeping period either at the cockpit, with their chair moved away from the controls, or in a designated free seat with the passengers.
On the other hand, if it is a long haul flight, then pilots have the opportunity to sleep in designated areas with hidden beds away from the view of passengers.
These types of beds are typically bunk beds hidden away for both the pilots and the cabin crew to sleep in, away from the hustle and bustle of the cabin so that they can get a good standard of sleep and rest.
These areas are usually located behind a locked door, with a small ladder to a room above first class, or near the cockpit.
If there are no bunks available, then pilots are often offered spare seats/beds from business or first class areas.