Boeing 737 pilots both doze off and overfly the airport on a two-hour flight

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

The incident happened on Monday when Ethiopian Airlines flight was approaching its destination in Addis Ababa, the capital and largest city of Ethiopia. When air traffic control at the city’s airport tried to contact the plane around its point of descent, they received no response and the plane continued flying, according to a BBC News.

As it turned out, both pilots had fallen asleep at the controls of the plane, causing the plane to coast at its descent point. When the pilots drifted, the plane was about 37,000 feet in the air. Both pilots were eventually awakened by the vehicle’s autopilot cut-off screech and were able to land safely in Addis Ababa on a second approach, some 25 minutes after missing their first descent.

The plane, and Boeing 737normally seats 154 passengers and was en route from the airport in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, which is normally a two-hour flight.

Pilots fall asleep in flight
Two pilots fell asleep as the Ethiopian Airlines plane they were flying approached the point of descent. Above, a representative image of an Ethiopian Airlines aircraft 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 the incident.

“We have received a report indicating that Ethiopian flight number ET343 en route from Khartoum to Addis Ababa on August 15, 2022 temporarily lost communication with Addis Ababa air traffic control,” Ethiopian Airlines wrote in a statement sent to numerous press outlets. “The flight later landed safely after communications were restored. The affected crew has been withdrawn from service pending further investigation. Appropriate corrective actions are taken based on the result of the investigation. Safety has always been and always will be our first priority. “

Reactions online have ranged from shock and anger to general sympathy for the responsibility modern pilots bear. In its report, BBC News cited comments calling for the pilots’ immediate “termination…period” and others saying “the blame lies with the company and regulators.”

“Pilot fatigue is nothing new and continues to be one of the biggest threats to flight safety – internationally,” aviation analyst Alex Macheras wrote in a tweet in response to the incident.

news week have reached out to Ethiopian Airlines for comment.

A similar incident was reported in May during a transatlantic flight from New York City to Rome. According to an Italian news outlet, the plane’s pilots dozed off and were unavailable for about 10 minutes before waking up.

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