Ethiopian Airlines pilots fall asleep mid-air

Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-800 pilots are said to have fallen asleep while flying over Addis Ababa [Courtesy]

Two Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-800 pilots are said to have fallen asleep mid-flight on their way to Addis Ababa, Bole International airport from Khartoum, Sudan.

According to Aviation Herald, the plane missed its descent after numberous attempts by the Air Traffic Control (ATC) to contact the crew. The flight was cruising at 37,000 feet. After overflying the runway, the autopilot immediatley went off and the alarm went on, in the process waking up the pilots. They managed to land the plane 25 minutes later

“The aircraft continued past the top of descent maintaining FL370 and continued along the FMC route set up for an approach to runway 25L without descending however. ATC tried to contact the crew numerous times without success. After overflying runway 25L at FL370 the autopilot disconnected, the disconnect wailer woke the crew up who then maneouver the aircraft for a safe landing on runway 25L about 25 minutes after overflying the runway at FL370,” the Aviation Herald reported.

The aircraft, however, remained on the ground for about two-and-a-half hours before departing for its next flight.

Concerning incident

Aviation analyst Alex Macheras posted on his on Twitter page: “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.”

He referred to 'pilot fatigue', which he described as 'nothing new'.

In 2019, a Boeing 737 Max 8 Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed with 149 passengers. Among those who perished were 32 Kenyans. The plane plane crashed shortly after taking off from Bole.