In a shocking revelation, chief of the Indian Air Force Air Marshal BS Dhanoa said sleep deprivation caused by spending hours on social media was the reason behind the pilot losing control over his MiG-21 Bison fighter plane leading it to crash in 2013 in Uttarlai, Rajasthan. The pilot died in the accident.

Speaking at the 57th Indian Society of Aerospace Medicine conference organised in Bengaluru on Friday, Dhanoa said a system needs to be put into place which can identify if pilots had enough sleep before they go out on sorties. He said pilots are spending too much time on social media sites at night and this is leading to severe sleep deprivation.

"In summers with temperatures soaring beyond 40° Celsius flying sorties are discouraged so the flight briefings take place early in the morning. Most flight briefings are as early as 6 am sometimes and it has come to notice that pilots haven't had enough sleep," he said.

MIG 21
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"There was an unfortunate air crash at Uttarlai in 2013 which was the result of continuous sleep deprivation for a number of days. This is a new challenge for us because of the changes in our society," he added.

The air chief urged the Institute of Aerospace Medicine to address the issue by creating a system which can identify whether pilots had enough sleep before flying out on a sortie.

"In times before internet and social media, the barman would know if a pilot had one drink too many and if he didn't others would know and the pilot would be grounded for the day and nowadays we even have breath analysers. We also need a system which can identify pilots who didn't have enough sleep," Dhanoa said.