The incident happened on board an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-800 en route from Khartoum to Addis Ababa, according to the report, “when the pilots fell asleep” and “the aircraft continued on- beyond the top of the descent”.
Data obtained by the website indicates the plane was flying at 37,000 feet on autopilot when it failed to descend at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, its intended destination, on August 15.
Air traffic control was apparently unable to reach the crew despite several contact attempts. However, an alarm went off when the plane overshot the runway and continued on its way.
The plane then began to descend, landing safely about 25 minutes later.
Automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) data shows the aircraft hovering over the runway, before beginning its descent and maneuvering for another approach.
“We have received a report that Ethiopian flight number ET343 en route from Khartoum to Addis Ababa temporarily lost communication with Addis Ababa Air Traffic Control on August 15, 2022,” read a statement released. Friday by Ethiopian Airlines.
“The flight subsequently landed safely after communication was restored. The affected crew was removed from operations pending further investigation.
“Appropriate corrective action will be taken based on the results of the investigation. Safety has always been and will continue to be our first priority,” the statement said.
Aviation analyst Alex Macheras has since taken to Twitter to express his shock at the “deeply concerning incident”, which he says could be the result of the pilot’s exhaustion.
“Pilot fatigue is nothing new and continues to be one of the most significant threats to aviation safety – globally,” he tweeted on Thursday.
“Fatigue, both acute and cumulative, has become Southwest Airlines’ primary safety threat,” the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, or SWAPA, told airline executives in a letter in April.
According to the letter, the growing demand for air travel as the industry begins to rebound from the Covid-19 pandemic, and the chaos of cancellations caused by bad weather were among the reasons for the increase in pilot burnout. .
Last May, Italian newspaper Repubblica reported that an ITA pilot had been fired after “falling asleep” on a flight from New York to Rome.
The co-pilot then allegedly took an “authorized rest”, which led to the Airbus A330 losing communication with air traffic control for ten minutes, according to the report.