Page last updated at 10:03 GMT, Thursday, 25 September 2008 11:03 UK

Snoozing pilots to return to work

Map of Hawaii

Two commercial airline pilots who fell asleep in the cockpit and overshot their landing by 15 miles have been cleared to return to work.

Earlier this year, the Go! flight from Honolulu to Hilo cruised over its landing target at 21,000 feet.

Alarmed air traffic controllers tried to contact the cockpit a dozen times but got no response for 17 minutes.

The pilots were subsequently fired, but suspensions issued by the US aviation watchdog have now been served.

Officials feared for the safety of the 40 passengers on board when they got no response from the Hawaiian carrier's short-haul Flight 1002 on 13 February.

Some 44 minutes into what should have been a 45-minute flight, contact was finally established and the plane was ordered to return to land.

Sleep disorder

The US National Transportation Safety Board ruled in June that both pilots "unintentionally fell asleep".

Captain Scott Oltman was suspended for 60 days by the the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) for careless and reckless operation of an aircraft and for failing to maintain radio communications.

The FAA suspended First Officer Dillon Shepley for 45 days for careless and reckless operation of a plane.

Both suspensions were completed on 9 September, the FAA said.

After February's incident, Mr Oltman was diagnosed with "severe obstructive sleep apnea" which causes people to stop breathing repeatedly in their sleep, preventing a restful night.

No action was taken against the carrier because it was deemed to have acted within guidelines and had offered the two pilots sufficient rest-time between flights.

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