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FAA FLOATS NEW IDEA: NAPPING PILOTS

The Federal Aviation Administration is toying with the idea of letting pilots sleep on the job.

The thinking is that a midflight nap while a co-pilot takes over during long, trans-oceanic flights could help keep the aircraft commander fresh for landing after an otherwise tiring flight.But the FAA is proceeding warily, concerned that visions of pilots snoring at 40,000 feet could agitate passengers.

The agency has been exploring the idea ever since a NASA study two years ago suggested passengers will be safer if a pilot is bright-eyed when his skills are most needed - at landing.

In cases where there are at least three pilots on the crew, the study suggests there may be no danger in allowing one pilot to nap during the long, typically humdrum, over-the-water periods of international flights, when there's not much work to do in the cockpit anyway.

The FAA is working with the Airline Pilots Association to draft recommendations. Before going further, the agency will seek comments from pilots and airline officials.