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Ethiopian Airlines pilots Falls Asleep, Forgets to Land Plane

By: April Carson

On Monday, commercial aviation news site Aviation Herald reported that two pilots appear to have missed their landing and fallen asleep during a flight from Sudan to Ethiopia.

The aircraft was flying at 38,000 feet when it "continued past the top of descent," according to an Ethiopian Airline Boeing 737-800 incident report obtained by The Washington Post. According to the paper, the pilots fell asleep and "the plane continued" past the point where they should have descended.

The Aviation Herald report said the incident happened on Feb. 18, but it was not clear how long the plane flew before the pilots woke up and began their descent.

It is not uncommon for pilots to take short naps during long flights, but they are usually in contact with air traffic control and have someone in the cockpit to take over if necessary.

According to the website's data, the aircraft was on autopilot and cruising at 37,000 feet when it failed to descend and land at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport on August 15.

Despite making numerous attempts at contact, air traffic control were unable to reach the crew. However, when the aircraft departed the runway and continued along its intended route, an alarm was sounded.

At this point, the pilots woke up and began their descent.

It is not uncommon for pilots to take short naps during long flights, but they are usually in contact with air traffic control and have someone in the cockpit to take over if necessary.

After the aircraft began to descend, it landed safely about 25 minutes later. Surveillance data from Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) showed the aircraft flying over the runway before beginning its descent and preparing for another approach.

On Friday, Ethiopian Airlines issued a statement reading: "We have received a report which indicates that Ethiopian flight number ET343 en route from Khartoum to Addis Ababa temporarily lost communication with Addis Ababa Air Traffic Control on 15 August 2022."

"After communication was restored, the flight landed safely. The crew that is under investigation have been removed from their current operation."

According to a statement posted on the company's website, "Appropriate corrective action will be taken based on the findings of the investigation. Safety has always and will continue to be our top priority."

This is not the first time an Ethiopian Airlines pilot has been accused of falling asleep at the controls. In 2012, a Boeing 737-800 carrying 90 passengers from Addis Ababa to Rome landed in Geneva after the pilots dozed off.

Aviation analyst Alex Macheras was surprised by the "deeply concerning incident," which might have been due to pilot exhaustion, that he saw on Twitter.

"There have been a number of reported incidents in which Ethiopian pilots have fallen asleep at the controls," he told CNN.

"Pilot fatigue has always been a problem and continues to be one of the biggest threats to air safety -- not just in our country but all around the world," he tweeted on Thursday.

The findings arrive months after Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines pilots urged airline executives to view fatigue and its consequences as a safety hazard and advised them to address pilot exhaustion.

Both incidents are being investigated.

"While we are not able to comment on the specifics of this incident while it is under investigation, Ethiopian Airlines is committed to the safety of its passengers and crew," a spokesperson told CNN.

In April, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) told airline executives that both acute and cumulative fatigue had become Southwest Airlines' number-one safety threat.

Exacerbated by the prominent availability of flying instructors, the 10 percent jump in pilot fatigue was attributed to numerous causes, including increasing air travel demand as the airline industry begins to recover from Covid-19, and severe weather cancellations.

In May, an ITA pilot was "caught sleeping" during a New York to Rome flight and subsequently fired, as reported by Italian newspaper Repubblica.

The co-pilot was reported to be taking an "authorized rest" at the time, which resulted in the Airbus A330 missing communication with air traffic control for ten minutes, according to the story.

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About the Blogger:

April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav



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