Boeing 737 pilots doze off and overtake airport on two-hour flight

A routine passenger flight nearly turned sideways last week after both pilots reportedly fell asleep while the craft was thousands of feet in the air.

The incident happened on Monday as an Ethiopian Airlines flight approached its destination in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital and largest city. As air traffic control at the city’s airport attempted to contact the flight around its point of descent, they could get no response and the plane continued, according to a BBC News report.

It turned out that the two pilots at the helm of the plane had fallen asleep, causing the plane to roll to its point of descent. By the time the pilots drifted, the plane was about 37,000 feet in the air. Both pilots were eventually awakened by the craft’s autopilot disconnect signal and were able to land safely in Addis Ababa on a second approach, about 25 minutes after missing their first descent.

The plane, a Boeing 737, can usually seat 154 passengers and was en route from the airport in Sudan’s capital Khartoum, which is usually a two-hour flight.

Two pilots fell asleep as the Ethiopian Airlines plane they were flying approached its drop-off point. Above is a representative photo of an Ethiopian Airlines plane in September 2020.
Kola Sulaimon/AFP via Getty Images

The pilots involved in the incident have been placed on leave pending a full investigation into what happened.

“We have received a report that Ethiopian flight number ET343 en route from Khartoum to Addis Ababa temporarily lost communication with Addis Ababa Air Traffic Control on August 15, 2022,” Ethiopian Airlines wrote in a statement. sent to many news outlets. “The flight subsequently landed safely after communication was restored. The affected crew was removed from operations pending further investigation. Appropriate corrective action will be taken based on the results of the investigation. safety has always been and will continue to be our first priority.”

Reactions online ranged from shock and anger to general sympathy for the responsibilities modern pilots bear. In its report, BBC News cited comments calling for the “immediate termination… period” of pilots and others who said “the responsibility lies with society and regulators”.

“Pilot fatigue is nothing new and continues to represent one of the most significant threats to aviation safety – globally,” aviation analyst Alex Macheras wrote in a tweet reacting to the incident. .

Newsweek contacted Ethiopian Airlines for comment.

A similar incident was reported in May during a transatlantic flight from New York to Rome. The pilots of the craft dozed off and were inaccessible for about 10 minutes before waking up, according to Italian media.


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