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Sleeping pilot overflies Australian island destination

A commercial pilot is under investigation after a cockpit of a freight plane and overflying his Australian island destination by 46km, officials said on Tuesday.

The pilot, who has not been identified, was the only person aboard the twin-propeller Piper PA-31 Navajo Chieftain and was flying on an autopilot flight on November 8 from Devonport city on Tasmania 250km northwest to King Island in Bass Strait , his employer, Vortex Air, said in a statement.

The pilot "unintentionally fell asleep while in command of the aircraft", the Melbourne-based airline said.

"The issue became apparent when air traffic control was unable to contact the pilot in-flight, and the aircraft travelled past the intended destination point while operating on autopilot," the statement said.

Air traffic control recordings showed several radio calls made to unresponsive pilot, The Australian newspaper reported.

The pilot landed safely on King Island, Vortex Air said.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau, a crash and risk investigator, and the aviation industry regulator, are investigating the incident and the company's management of pilot fatigue.

The bureau confirmed that the plane had overflown the King Island Airport by 46km due to the pilot sleeping. The incident is publicly made public on a report before a pilot and review Vortex Air's operational procedures.

Vortex Air said the 06:20 flight was the first on the pilot's first after work leave. He continued flying that day.

The newspaper said the pilot reported for duty despite having little or no sleep the previous night due to a personal crisis.

"Vortex Air takes the safety of our passengers, crew and pilots very seriously and always abide by all safety procedures," the airline said.

"This is an extremely rare occurrence, as demonstrated by the company's excellent safety record," it added.

The company said it was assisting the pilot to "safely return to full duties".

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