Panic on an Italian plane carrying more than a hundred passengers
It happened on April 30, on an Ita Airline flight from New York to Rome, but the news was made public only recently, after it was determined what happened: the two pilots fell asleep at the same time, while over France, and no longer answered calls from French radar operators. When no response was received, it was assumed that the plane had been hijacked by terrorists, and two fighter jets took off to escort the Ita plane in accordance with security protocols.
Ita Airways 609 had taken off from New York for Rome Fiumicino, but there was no response for about 10 minutes when the Marseille radar center attempted to contact the plane.
Authorities became concerned when there was no response, fearing that a terrorist act was taking place. At that point, two military fighter jets took off to escort the Ita aircraft in accordance with security protocols and to investigate what was going on in the cabin.
However, after a few minutes, the plane resumed communications and landed safely at Rome Fiumicino at 6.31 a.m. (Italian time), as planned.
The two pilots of the aircraft fell asleep at the same time, according to the airline Ita, which launched an internal investigation. According to the protocol, one pilot may sleep while the other remains awake.
“The Italian airline, which conducted an investigation into the facts, assumes that both the first officer and the commander (both of the pilots) fell asleep for a few minutes,” Ita representatives said.
However, the commander did not admit to being asleep; instead, he denied it and provided another explanation for the facts. According to him, the communication systems on board were malfunctioning. That is why he would not have responded to the operators at the Marseille control tower. The investigation, however, revealed that there were no flaws on board, only two pilots who fell asleep at the same time. The commander was fired.