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"Pilot Quits After Appearing Asleep"

Friday, July 18, 2003

Pilot Quits After Appearing Asleep
The Associated Press

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) - A charter pilot resigned Friday after a
videotape surfaced apparently showing him sleeping during a flight from the
Bahamas while a co-pilot flew the plane.

The man was the captain on a Walker's International flight from Walker's Cay
to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport last Sunday. Fifteen
passengers were onboard.

The incident is under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Neither the agency nor the company would release the pilot's name.

A videotape taken by passenger Chris Ballard shows the pilot with his eyes
closed and apparently sleeping during the flight.

He said the co-pilot, who was flying the plane, noticed him taping the pilot
and a woman taking photographs.

"He didn't wake him up, so I wasn't going to get up and go into their area
and wake him up myself," Ballard told CNN.

Bill Jones, Walker International's general manager, said the man had been a
charter pilot with the company for about a year. He said the man denied he
was sleeping during the 55-minute flight, but decided that the videotape and
the resulting publicity "made a difficult situation."

"He thought it was the best thing to step down," Jones said.

Jones said the co-pilot "reports that at no time was he aware that the other
pilot was asleep." He said interviews with about half of the passengers
revealed an uneventful flight and no signs that one of the pilots was

But Jones said: "When I see the video it looks very bad." He said the pilot
does not have a lawyer. The pilot did not immediately return a phone message
left with the company, which flies about six round trips to the Bahamas
every week.

The company says it has a clean safety record with no accidents, incidents
or violations.

Kathleen Bergen, an FAA spokeswoman in Atlanta, said the pilot faces
sanctions ranging from a warning letter to a suspension or revocation of his
pilot's certificate.

"I would not assume the pilot is guilty based on news reports. We have to do
our own thorough investigation," she said.

Bergen said under FAA regulations, when two pilots are necessary for a
flight, "they are both required to remain awake, alert and performing their
flight-related duties." Jones confirmed that two pilots had been required
for that flight.


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