Ethiopian Airlines: Plane failed to descend as pilots reportedly fell asleep during flight

(CNN) — Two pilots are believed to have fallen asleep and missed their landing on a flight from Sudan to Ethiopia on Monday, according to a report by a commercial aviation news website. Aviation Bulletin.

The incident occurred on board an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-800 en route from Khartoum to Addis Ababa, the report said, “when the pilots fell asleep” and “the aircraft continued its descent.”

Data obtained by the website indicates that the plane was flying at 37,000 feet on autopilot when it failed to land at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport on August 15, its scheduled destination.

Air traffic control apparently was unable to contact the crew despite several attempts to make contact. However, the alarm went off when the plane crossed the runway and continued on its route.

The aircraft subsequently began to descend and landed safely about 25 minutes later.

Automatic Dependent Surveillance (ADS-B) data shows the aircraft overflying the runway before beginning to descend and maneuver for another approach.

“We received a message indicating that Ethiopian flight number ET343 from Khartoum to Addis Ababa temporarily lost contact with Addis Ababa Air Traffic Control on August 15, 2022,” Ethiopian Airlines said in a statement released Friday.

“The flight landed safely after communication was restored. The crew in question has been suspended pending further investigation.

“According to the results of the investigation, appropriate corrective measures will be taken. Safety has always been and will remain our top priority,” the statement said.

“Deeply disturbing”

Aviation analyst Alex Machairas has since taken to Twitter to express his shock at the “deeply disturbing incident” which he suggests could be the result of pilot exhaustion.

“Pilot fatigue is nothing new and continues to pose one of the biggest threats to aviation safety – internationally,” he wrote on Thursday.

“Fatigue, both acute and cumulative, has become Southwest Airlines’ number one safety threat,” the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, or SWAPA, told airline executives in a letter back in April.

Rising demand for air travel as the industry begins to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and cancellation chaos caused by severe weather were among the reasons for increased pilot fatigue, according to the letter.

Back in May, Italian newspaper Repubblica reported that an ITA pilot had been fired after he “fell asleep” during a flight between New York and Rome.

According to the report, the co-pilot was taking a “clear rest” at the time, causing the Airbus A330 to lose contact with air traffic control for ten minutes.

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