Several recent studies reveal that many Danish pilots are falling asleep at the throttle, despite a law requiring they declare themselves unfit to fly if they are fatigued before takeoff. Denmark’s Politiken magazine interviewed 21 pilots from four airlines and found that many routinely break the law due to feeling pressured by employers to take to the skies or risk losing their jobs. “I thought that I should declare myself unfit, but flew nonetheless,” one pilot told Politiken. “During the flight, I made a lot of small mistakes, but luckily nothing happened.” In a separate survey of 61 pilots, conducted by Denmark’s Aviation Medicine Clinic, 80 per cent said they felt pressure to work despite feeling unfit, and 34 per cent had done so more than five times in five years.
And it’s not just pilots in Denmark. In a February poll by public broadcaster NRK, half of the 389 Norwegian pilots who took part admitted to falling asleep in the cockpit. Pilots often work up to 15 hours a day, with 13 hours at the controls. The EU is seeking to reduce the number of working hours to 14 a day, and 12 at night. The European Cockpit Association says there should be an even greater reduction.