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Indonesia Investigates How Two Pilots Dozed Off During a Flight

Indonesia’s aviation authority said it would review how the country’s airlines operate night flights after both pilots on a Batik Air flight carrying 153 passengers fell asleep, causing the plane to briefly veer off course.

The flight — a journey of about three hours from Kendari to Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, early on Jan. 25 — was a return leg for the crew and plane, which had spent less than an hour on the ground after arriving from Jakarta.

The plane took off from Kendari around 8 a.m., and after reaching cruising altitude, the captain took a nap while the co-pilot manned the flight, according to a preliminary report by betpublic.org the National Transportation Safety Committee. After about an hour, the co-pilot accidentally fell asleep, and several frantic calls from the air traffic control center and other aircraft went unanswered.

About 28 minutes later, the pilot woke up, realized the plane had veered off course and woke up the co-pilot. They course corrected, and the plane landed safely in Jakarta.

Batik Air is owned by Lion Air Group, Indonesia’s largest air travel company, which has a troubled safety record. In 2018, one of its flights fell out of the sky moments after takeoff, killing all 189 people on board. In 2013, a Lion Air flight crashed into the sea while trying to land; all passengers were safely evacuated. And in 2004, 25 people were killed in a Lion Air crash in Surakarta, Indonesia.

In recent years, Lion Air Group has made significant investments into improving the safety of its flights, said Gerry Soejatman, an Indonesian aviation expert and consultant, but he added that it was unclear whether the investments were addressing the underlying issues or making quick fixes.

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