Ethiopian Airlines pilots fall asleep on flight, miss landing

Published on Aug 20, 2022 04:26 AM IST

The incident reportedly took place on Monday when the aircraft was flying from Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, and was supposed to land at Bole Airport in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

The path of flight ET343 over Addis Ababa, as recorded by Flightradar24. When the plane overflew the runway, the autopilot disconnected, triggering an alarm, which finally woke the pilots, who then turned the plane around. (Courtesy: flightradar24)
The path of flight ET343 over Addis Ababa, as recorded by Flightradar24. When the plane overflew the runway, the autopilot disconnected, triggering an alarm, which finally woke the pilots, who then turned the plane around. (Courtesy: flightradar24)

New Delhi: Pilots of an aircraft of Ethiopian Airlines fell asleep mid-air and missed landing at Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, commercial aviation news website Aviation Herald reported late on Thursday. The pilots were later suspended pending an investigation, according to news agency Bloomberg.

The incident reportedly took place on Monday when the aircraft was flying from Sudan’s Khartoum and was supposed to land at Bole Airport in Addis Ababa.

According to Aviation Herald, Air Traffic Control (ATC) raised an alert when the flight belonging to Africa’s largest carrier approached the airport but did not make the landing.

The plane was in autopilot mode which kept it cruising at 37,000 feet.

The ATC tried to contact the pilots of flight ET343 several times but couldn’t reach them, Africa’s largest airline said in a statement.

“When the plane overflew the runway where it was supposed to land, the autopilot disconnected. That triggered an alarm, which woke up the pilots,” the news portal reported.

They then reportedly maneuvered the aircraft around for landing on the runway 25 minutes later, the outlet further said, however, the plane landed safely.

After landing, the aircraft remained on the ground for about 2.5 hours before departing for its next flight, the report added.

The aviation surveillance system ADS-B confirmed the incident and posted a photo of the aircraft’s flight path, which shows an infinity-like loop near the Addis Ababa airport.

Ethiopian Airlines didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the report by Bloomberg.

Earlier this year, a similar incident occurred when two pilots fell asleep mid-air on a flight from New York to Rome.

While the exact cause behind the latest incident was not known nor did the airline comment on the matter, one of the reasons behind it could be pilot fatigue, aviation experts said.

“Pilot fatigue is nothing new, and continues to pose one of the most significant threats to air safety, internationally. Just last week, pilots publicly criticised UK leisure airline Jet2 for refusing to recognise concerns about pilot fatigue,” aviation analyst Alex Macheras said in a Twitter post on Thursday, terming the latest incident “deeply concerning”

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