A routine passenger flight nearly flipped sides last week after pilots were said to have fallen asleep while the plane was flying at thousands of feet.
The accident occurred on Monday as Ethiopian Airlines flight It was approaching its destination in Addis Ababa, the capital and largest city in Ethiopia. With air traffic control at the city’s airport trying to contact the plane nearly at its landing point, they were unable to get any response and the plane continued to fly, according to BBC News report.
As it turned out, both pilots at the helm of the plane had fallen asleep, causing the plane to land at its landing point. At the point the pilots departed, the plane was in the air about 37,000 feet. Both pilots were eventually awakened by the vehicle’s autopilot separation operator and were able to land safely in Addis Ababa on a second approach, about 25 minutes after missing their first descent.
The Plane, Boeing 737can normally accommodate 154 passengers and was on its way from Khartoum airport, the capital of Sudan, which usually takes two hours by plane.
The pilots involved in the accident have been placed on leave until a full investigation is conducted.
“We have received a report that Ethiopian flight number ET343 en route from Khartoum to Addis Ababa temporarily lost contact with Addis Ababa air traffic control on August 15, 2022,” Ethiopian Airlines wrote in a statement sent to several press outlets. “The flight later landed safely after contact was restored. The crew involved were removed from the operation pending further investigation. Appropriate corrective actions will be taken based on the outcome of the investigation. Safety has always been and will continue to be our top priority.”
Online reactions have ranged from shock and outrage to general sympathy for the responsibilities that modern pilots bear. In its report, BBC News cited comments calling for an “immediate termination…total halt” for pilots, and another saying that “the blame rests with the company and regulators”.
“Pilot fatigue is nothing new, and continues to be one of the most significant threats to aviation safety – internationally,” aviation analyst Alex Macheras wrote in a tweet in response to the accident.
NEWSWEEK I contacted Ethiopian Airlines for comment.
A similar incident was reported in May during a transatlantic flight from New York City to Rome. The plane’s pilots missed work and were unreachable for about 10 minutes before getting up, according to an Italian news outlet.
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