Pilot sacked after falling asleep while flying from New York to Rome

A CAPTAIN of Italy’s flagship national airline has been sacked after he allegedly fell asleep at the controls, leaving traffic controllers unable to communicate with the plane for ten minutes.

According to Italian daily Repubblica, the two pilots of ITA Airlines passenger flight AZ609 from New York to Rome on April 30 had dozed off at the controls of the Airbus 330.

The co-pilot was napping for “controlled rest” as allowed by procedure, according to the report, but the captain is supposed to be awake and reachable.

The communications blackout, which lasted just over ten minutes while the plane was on autopilot, triggered a terror alert, with French air authorities contacting their Roman counterparts at 5:21 a.m. to warn them that a terrorist hijacking could be in progress.

On Twitter, Michele Anzaldi, a centre-left MP, called for a formal apology from the public carrier.

“What happened on the ITA flight from New York, where both pilots fell asleep, is very serious,” he said. “The company has a duty to ensure this does not happen again and must apologize to passengers.”

While ITA Airlines’ internal investigation found grounds to fire the captain, who denies falling asleep, it did not cite a specific reason for his mysterious radio silence.

The flight was on autopilot, flying at normal speed and altitude, and never veered off course.

Passenger safety has never been compromised, Davide D’Amico, a spokesman for the airline, told The Daily Telegraph.

ITA Airways, formerly Alitalia, is Italy’s new national flag carrier, which the government reorganized after Alitalia officially went bankrupt last fall.

In a statement to The Telegraph, the ITA said its internal investigation found the captain’s behaviors were “not in accordance with procedure” during the flight and once he landed.

The airline stressed “clearly and rigorously” that the safety of the flight was always guaranteed, thanks also to state-of-the-art technology on board.

The Telegraph, London

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