A pilot from the Italian airline ITA has been fired after allegedly falling asleep in the cockpit. After the French air traffic control could not reach anyone on board for minutes, they triggered a terror alarm.

As the Italian newspaper La Repubblica reports, the incident occurred on May 1, 2022 on board flight AZ605 from New York to Rome. Towards the end of the flight, there was silence in the cockpit for about ten minutes while the Airbus flew at about 11,500 meters over France.

Repeated calls from Marseille air traffic control went unanswered and Italian media reports that both the captain and first officer were sound asleep. The co-pilot was probably also allowed to do this, he was in a so-called “controlled rest”. This is a procedure that allows pilots to rest in short sleep intervals to prevent over-fatigue. However, both pilots are not allowed to sleep at the same time – the captain should therefore have been available.

When the French authorities suspected a terror alert or a hijacking because of the silence in the cockpit, and were preparing to send two fighter jets, the pilots woke up. The plane flew to Rome without further incident and landed safely at Rome International Airport.

For the captain, however, there were now consequences. The airline ITA Airways, the successor to Alitalia, is said to have dismissed the pilot after the incident. However, he maintains his innocence and denies that he took a nap. Instead, there was a problem with the radio system.