A Boeing 737-800 passenger flight traveling from Khartoum to Addis Ababa was in for a surprise when two pilots for Ethiopian Airlines fell asleep and missed their landing, according to a report from Aviation Herald.
The sleeping pilots flew past the runway and missed the starting point for their descent.
CBS News reported:
Air traffic control tried to contact the pilots multiple times, but could not get ahold of them, the aviation news site reported. When the pilots flew past the landing point, autopilot disengaged, setting an alarm that woke them up.
Once awake, the pilots rerouted the plane back to Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, where they safely landed 25 minutes later, which can be seen in a flight map from FlightAware.
Ethiopian Airlines stated that the flight “temporarily” lost communication with air traffic control. The Airline did not confirm whether the pilots fell asleep or not.
They continued saying, “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.”
Unfortunately, Pilot fatigue is not uncommon.
“Fatigue, both acute and cumulative, has become Southwest Airlines’ number-one safety threat,” the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association told airline executives, as reported in Business Insider.
The Covid 19 pandemic has made this issue much worse. Cases of fatigue among southwest pilots saw a 200 percent increase with certain months being higher than others.
In another study, in-flight fatigue has been reported by 68 to 91% of commercial airline pilots, according to a study last year conducted by Frontiers.
In an open letter, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association wrote, “The many negative impacts of fatigue are well-documented — impaired judgment, lack of concentration, reduced in-flight attention, and heightened emotional activity leading to poor cognitive processing, along with decreased reaction time and slower hand-eye coordination, to name a few.”