INCIDENT | Ethiopian Airlines pilots asleep at controls during Addis Ababa flight: report


Two Ethiopian Airlines pilots fell asleep while operating a flight from Khartoum International Airport (KRT) to Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (ADD) , according to an incident report by the Aviation Herald. 

According to the report, flight ET343, a Boeing 737-800 with aircraft registration ET-AOB, was en route to ADD from KRT on August 15, 2022. The aircraft was cruising at 37,000 feet (FL370), when both pilots fell asleep.

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It was noted that something was amiss when the plane failed to descend for landing. “The aircraft continued past the top of descent maintaining FL370 and continued along the FMC route set up for an approach to runway 25L without descending,” the Aviation Herald reported.

Air Traffic Control (ATC) attempted to contact the crew numerous times but without success.

The aircraft’s autopilot disconnected when it flew past runway 25L still at FL370, and the disconnect wailer then woke up the crew, who maneuvered the aircraft for a safe landing on runway 25L.

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Aviation analyst Alex Macheras described the incident as ‘deeply concerning’, and later said that “pilot fatigue is nothing new, and continues to pose one of the most significant threats to air safety - internationally.”

Netizens on Aviation Herald’s site expressed concern about the flight times. ET343 departed KRT at 03:27 local time, and arrived on time at 06:15 local time in ADD.

“This flight has a scheduled departure of 3:30AM local time. Why schedule it during circadian low for pilots?” one of the comments said.

Some also expressed sympathy for the pilots: “I know some pilots from Ethiopian, they are worked to death. They've said numerous times how insanely tired they are.”

The following comment was received from Ethiopian Airlines:

"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."

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