I screenshot this YouTube video. Because the A380 just attained FL250, the flight obviously commenced less than an hour ago. At 14:28 the relief captain (Robert Juelicher) leaves the cockpit. At 14:37, ATC clears the flight to climb to FL320.

Doubtless, relief pilots are legally mandated to have well and sufficiently rested and slept before their flight.

  1. So how can Juelicher be expected to sleep or rest 1 hour just into the flight?

  2. Or did the Pilot-in-Command (Juergens Raps exhibited below in the screenshot) mis-speak? Is Juelicher expected to merely fritter away time (e.g. read a book) until his shift, not necessarily to sleep?

enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ Could you explain what you are looking for that isn't already covered in the existing answer? $\endgroup$ Commented May 30, 2020 at 18:35
  • $\begingroup$ @J.Hougaard If "relief pilots may have woken up just before the flight and had a nice hour to relax before "going to work"", how can they fall asleep again so quickly? I disregarded that military trick. $\endgroup$
    – user128
    Commented May 30, 2020 at 19:51
  • $\begingroup$ Resting does not require sleeping. You can sleep, read, meditate, watch a movie, write a novel.. What ever. The only requirement is that after the rest period, you are fit and alert enough to do the job $\endgroup$
    – Sami
    Commented May 30, 2020 at 20:41
  • $\begingroup$ Note that the subtitles do not reflect what was actually said. What is said is: "Tschüss!", which can be translated as "bye!", and "bis später" which can be translated as "see you later". $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Commented Jun 4, 2020 at 13:28

3 Answers 3


The military has been teaching people how to fall asleep fast for a long time and its quite doable. Keep in mind this pilot did not start working one hour ago, if he is relived after 1 hour he is likely at the end of his duty shift and may have been flying for the previous 7 hours and awake for some more time than that. Pilots hop time zones frequently so just because its daytime outside the aircraft does not mean that pilot started off his duty time in that time zone or even on that continent that day.

The relief pilots may have woken up just before the flight and had a nice hour to relax before "going to work".

The crew rest area is pretty nicely isolated and free of light and distractions making it an ideal place to sleep.


I do not believe the captain mis-spoke. Just like Dave answered, a pilot going on duty and expected to be the “relief” pilot would usually not wake up, rested and fresh as a start to the flight. He/she would have planned (and the airline’s scheduling dept. will have considered) to arrive “legally” rested since their last shift but ideally not at the pilot’s cycle of “early morning” after a full night’s sleep.

Consider this: Similar to the way you, as a passenger preparing to depart on an international flight might stay up extra late the night before (or get up extra early) to “force” your internal clock closer to the time zone of your destination, this pilot would have done the same. Pilots have the additional consideration that they might spend very little time at the destination and consider the length of the next route they are assigned.


I do a lot of long-haul flying. I have a 13.5 hour trip tomorrow.

I will not be sleeping on the flight. Some crew do. For certain operations, adequate sleep facilities must be provided. There is neither a requirement that the pilot sleep, nor is it always possible.

Moving between time zones, and flying both sides of the clock means that frequently I'm just not going to be sleeping. It's not uncommon to take off east bound and turn a long night into a very short one, with nearly two days of daylight, or fly the other direction and never leave night, or to gain a day or lose a day.

There are tips and tricks in hotels, using light or backout curtains, sleeping when able, avoiding caffeine, etc...but the bottom line is that I find that I may not sleep when rest is available, because I can't. On long trips, I don't like to sleep, and usually don't.

Some pilots operate under regulations that allow a 30 hour duty day, and I've seen a lot of those. Long days.

When home, I get tired in the middle of the day, sometimes, and often stay up all night.

For crews going to a rest area, it's a matter of juggling crew to ensure no one exceeds their legal time in the pilot seat, and going to a dark area to lay quietly with a little music, or a set of earplugs and a comfortable temperature...it's a matter of doing what one must. If one has regular trips scheduled, then one can learn to sleep.

I knew a captain many years ago who would fall asleep right after takeoff. I mean literally right after takeoff. Once, departing Honolulu, before the landing gear was up. I kid not.


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