A major aircraft disaster was averted recently after an Ethiopian plane reportedly missed landing after both the pilots fell asleep midair at some 37,000 ft. It was only when the autopilot’s alarm blared that the two pilots woke up from their golden slumbers and took control of the aircraft. The incident was reported recently and the plane was traveling from Sudan’s Khartoum to Ethiopia capital Addis Ababa.
The matter was brought to the fore by aviation analyst Alex Macheras who took to twitter and gave an account of the incident. “Deeply concerning incident at Africa’s largest airline — 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 tweeted.
In a subsequent tweet, Alex further added, “Air traffic controllers tried to contact the pilots numerous times without success. After overflying the runway (still at cruising altitude), the autopilot disconnected – and this chime alert woke the pilots up — who then initiated a descent and eventually made a safe landing.”
The aviation analyst also noted that pilot fatigue is not a recent phenomenon and continues to pose a massive security threat to air-travel.
Air fatigue is caused by multiple factors such as lack of sleep, workload, and circadian phase.
The Facts of the Matter
Imagine being an airplane traveler with fear of air travel, and then finding out that your airplane pilot has gone to sleep in the cockpit! While this could be a scary notion to some, and a funny one to others, this recently happened when an Ethiopian planed missed its landing after both the pilots fell asleep mid-air.
Pilot Falls Asleep
According to The Aviation Herald, the flight in questioned was flying from Sudan’s Khartoum to Ethiopia Addis Ababa. Hundreds of fliers were enroute to the destination in the Boeing 737-800 airplane when both the pilots reportedly fell asleep when the plane was 37,000 ft in the air.
The report stated that the ATC raised an alert when the flight was approaching the runway and didn’t make the landing. The plane was on the autopilot mode and it kept burning the limited amount of fuel at cruised at 37,000 ft.
Plane in Control of Pilots 20 Minutes After Missed Landing
After not landing at the 25l runway at the FL370, the airplane’s autopilot disconnected. This disconnected led to a blaring alarm getting initiated. This woke the pilots up, who then maneuvered the plane for the landing about 25 minutes after it overflew the runway.
In the wake of the shocking ordeal, the aircraft remained on the runway for 2.5 hours before flying for the next flight. According to The Aviation Herald report, the ADS-B data confirmed the information, showing that the aircraft remained at a height of 37.000 feet, before overflying the runway, and then maneuvering for another approach.
“Pilot Fatigue” Reason Behind Incident
Blaming “Pilot fatigue” as the reason for the incident, aviation analyst Alex Macheras stated that fatigue continues to pose security threat.
“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”,” Alex tweeted.
Air traffic controllers tried to contact the pilots numerous times without success
After overflying the runway (still at cruising altitude), the autopilot disconnected – and this chime alert woke the pilots up — who then initiated a descent and eventually made a safe landing.
— Alex Macheras (@AlexInAir) August 18, 2022
Similar Incident was Reported from NYC-Rome Flight
Earlier, an eerily similar incident was reported in June 2022 when two pilots aboard the New York City to Rome airplane also fell asleep some 38,000 ft midair. According to reports, the plane had reportedly lost contact with the ATC for about 10 minutes.
Fighter jets were being prepared to intercept the plane with the fears that the plane had been taken in control by terrorists. However, the pilots responded before the matters could’ve escalated.
During investigation, it was revealed that one of the pilots had gone to sleep as it was his designated sleep time, and other pilot had fallen asleep at the same time.