The pilot who fell asleep and overflew destination had been awake for 24 hours

ATSB map showing route of pilot who fell asleep and overshot destination in 2018.

A pilot who fell asleep and overflew his Tasmanian destination had not slept for 24 hours before the incident, a safety report has found.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) report found the unidentified pilot, who was the only person aboard the Vortex Air freight flight on November 8, 2018, departed from Devonport for a 6:20am scheduled flight to King Island, reaching an “altitude of 6,000 feet”.

“The autopilot maintained the aircraft’s track and altitude, while the pilot listened to music through the radio and continued to monitor the flight,” the ATSB noted.

“As the aircraft reached the top of descent into King Island, the pilot started to feel tired and rapidly fell asleep.”

Air Traffic Control (ATC) and other nearby pilots tried unsuccessfully to contact the Piper PA-31-350 registered as VH-TWU, and when the pilot woke up he discovered his autopilot had taken the aircraft 78 kilometres north of his intended destination.

He landed at King Island without injury or damage to the aircraft.

The ATSB reported the pilot “contacted his supervisor and ATC Melbourne Centre via telephone to discuss what had happened … the pilot then completed the shift, flying from King Island back to Moorabbin”.

ATSB report on pilot fatigue leading to incapacitation.


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