Two pilots have been suspended after falling asleep during a flight and missing an airport runway.
The pilots dozed off at 37,000ft and air traffic control raised the alarm following unsuccessful attempts to contact the pilots.
Once the aircraft overshot the point of descent into Ethiopia's Addis Ababa airport, air traffic control frantically tried to reach the pilots, who were only woken up when the autopilot alarm sounded.
Once awake, the pilots safely landed the plane on the aircraft’s second approach, but on Friday, Ethiopian Airlines confirmed the pilots had been suspended.
Aviation expert Alex Macheras called the incident ‘deeply concerning’, tweeting on Thursday (18 August): “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.”
Equally dismayed comments quickly racked up beneath the Aviation Herald’s post, who first reported the incident, with one person writing: “The level of incompetence has gone beyond limits.”
Another added: “Tragic,” while a third pointed out: “Pilot fatigue can be a serious issue and especially on long night flights.”
Ethiopian Airlines said in a statement: "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.
"The flight later landed safely after communication was restored. The concerned Crew have 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."
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— Alex Macheras (@AlexInAir) August 18, 2022
Why hadn’t it started to descend for landing? Both pilots were asleep. https://t.co/cPPMsVHIJD pic.twitter.com/RpnxsdtRBf
Thankfully in this instance, the pilots woke up and landed the plane, but back in May, a passenger with ‘no idea’ how to fly was forced to land an aircraft they were travelling in after its pilot became ‘incoherent’.
The person was onboard a Cessna Caravan model when the pilot became unwell, leaving them with no choice but to try and land the aircraft themselves.
With some help from air traffic controllers on the ground, the passenger safely touched down at Palm Beach International Airport.
Reporting on the incredible feat, the New York Post said the small plane was 70 miles off the Florida coast when the incident unfolded.
The outlet explained the passenger was heard telling air traffic control: “I’ve got a serious situation here. My pilot has gone incoherent. I have no idea how to fly the airplane.”
A dispatcher responded: “Roger. What’s your position?” to which the passenger replied: “I have no idea. I can see the coast of Florida in front of me. And I have no idea.”
Offering guidance, the dispatcher then said: “Maintain wings level and just try to follow the coast, either north or southbound. We’re trying to locate you.”
Incredibly, the plane was able to descend safely and located around 25 miles north of Palm Beach.
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