Two pilots flying at 37,000 feet fall asleep, miss runway to land | world news
Two pilots flying a plane from Sudan to Ethiopia fell asleep when the plane was 37,000 feet above sea level and missed landing. The incident happened on Monday August 15 and the pilots were then able to land the plane safely without reporting any injuries, according to The Aviation Herald.
Flight ET-343 – a Boeing 737 – was scheduled to land at Addis Ababa airport. The Herald report says the plane continued past the top of the descent and followed the route predicted by the flight management computer (FMC) without descending.
The flight was on autopilot mode the entire time the pilots were asleep and failed to descend. Air traffic controllers (ATC) tried to contact them several times but received no response.
When the flight overflew the runway, the autopilot disconnected and triggered an alarm. It was this noise that finally woke up the pilots. They quickly maneuvered the plane and landed it safely nearly 25 minutes after flying over the runway.
The Herald report cited data from the Aviation Surveillance System (ADS-B), which indicated the flight overflew the runway and did not begin to descend until later. The report also shared an image showing a detour loop taken by the flight around Addis Ababa, which can be seen as the maneuvering approach the pilots took after waking up from sleep.
After landing, the aircraft remained on the ground for approximately two and a half hours before departing on its next trip.
Aviation analyst Alex Macheras tweeted about the incident and shared the image of the loop, calling it “deeply concerning”.
“Deeply concerning incident on Africa’s largest airline – Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 #ET343 was still at a cruising altitude of 37,000ft as it reached its destination Addis Ababa. hadn’t he started descending to land? Both pilots were asleep,” reads his post on the microblogging site.
The incident comes after a similar incident allegedly took place in April on a flight from New York to Rome, with up to 250 passengers on board. According to ABC News, an investigation into the case revealed that the two ITA Airways pilots allegedly slept in the cockpit as their plane flew 38,000 feet above France.
Investigators said while a pilot slept during his designated sleep break, the plane’s captain also fell asleep. ATC had lost contact with the plane for nearly 10 minutes and even prepared fighter jets to intercept amid fears of a terrorist incident. However, the pilots eventually responded.