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Ethiopian Airlines pilots fall asleep at 37,000 feet, aviation expert blames fatigue

IFM_Ethiopian Airlines
Air Traffic Control made numerous unsuccessful attempts to get in touch with the crew of Ethiopian Airlines

Two Ethiopian Airlines pilots were flying from Kenya to Ethiopia when they fell asleep and missed their landing.

According to the Aviation Herald, the pilots of the biggest airline in Africa slept off during flight ET343 from Khartoum, Kenya, to Addis Abeba, Ethiopia.

When the Boeing 737 approached the international airport on August 15 but had not yet begun to descend, alerts were raised. The autopilot system kept the jet cruising at 37,000 feet while the pilots were sound asleep (11,200m).

Air Traffic Control made numerous unsuccessful attempts to get in touch with the crew of Ethiopian Airlines.

The autopilot disconnected after the aircraft passed above the runway where it was intended to land. This set off an alarm, waking up the crew.

The pilots, who were awake and probably frightened, maneuvered the plane around and made a runway landing 25 minutes later.

Fortunately, nobody was hurt, and the plane made a safe landing.

The plane maintained a flight altitude of 37,000 feet and flew directly above the runway where it was intended to land, according to data from the aviation surveillance system ADS-B.

Before leaving on the subsequent flight, the aircraft remained on the runway for around two and a half hours.

On Twitter, aviation expert Alex Macheras called the event “deeply concerning”.

Alex Macheras wrote, “Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 #ET343 was still at cruising altitude of 37,000ft by the time it reached destination Addis Ababa. Why hadn’t it started to descend for landing? Both pilots were asleep.”

Alex Macheras put the blame on pilot fatigue for the untoward incident.

“Pilot fatigue is nothing new, and continues to pose one of the most significant threats to air safety – internationally,” Alex Macheras added.

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