Airplane pilots doze off while flying 37,000 feet in the air: ‘Deeply concerning’

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Two airplane pilots reportedly failed to land at an airport runaway after falling asleep while flying 37,000 feet in the air during a flight from Sudan to Ethiopia. 

A Boeing 737-800 for Ethiopian Airlines flying from Khartoum to Addis Abba missed their destination “when the pilots fell asleep,” according to a report from the Aviation Herald. Air traffic control at Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa airport attempted to contact the pilots after they failed to land on August 15.

When the pilots finally woke up, they landed on the runway on their second approach 25 minutes later, the report said. The maximum guest capacity for the aircraft is 154.

The entire crew has been put on leave and placed under investigation, according to the BBC. 

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“We have received a report which indicates Ethiopian flight number ET343 en route from Khartoum to Addis Ababa temporarily lost communication with Addis Ababa Air Traffic Control on 15 August 2022,” said Ethiopian Airlines in a statement on Friday. The flight later landed safely after communication was restored. The crew has been removed from operation pending further investigation.

“Appropriate corrective action will be taken based on the outcome of the investigation. Safety has always been and will continue to be our first priority,” the statement said.

Reactions on social media showed sympathy for the pilots, with some suggesting they have a demanding work schedule that made them fatigued. However, many individuals, including aviation Analyst Alex Macheras, believe the incident was “deeply concerning.”

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“A timely reminder that pilot fatigue is widespread, an issue across the airline spectrum, sometimes systematic, and poses a major threat to air safety,” Macheras tweeted.

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