Pilots sleep during flight and plane has to postpone landing when passing runway

Two pilots put passengers at risk by falling asleep during an in-flight approach to landing. As a result, the plane failed to descend and had to postpone the landing. The incident happened on Monday (15), on a flight from Sudan to Ethiopia.

According to The Independent newspaper, the Boeing 737-800, belonging to the Ethiopian Airlines airline, was on a route from Khartoum to Addis Ababa. The aircraft was crossing at 11,000 meters, on autopilot, when it did not begin its descent at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport.

Air traffic control was apparently unable to contact the crew, although it made several attempts to contact them. An alarm was triggered when the plane overshot the runway and took an unexpected route.

After the alert, the aircraft began the descent procedure, landing safely about 25 minutes later.

Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast data shows the aircraft flying over the runway, before starting its descent and maneuvering for another approach.

Fatigue worries pilots

The cause of the incident has generated great concern among many professionals in the aviation industry. Analyst Alex Macheras took to Twitter to express his shock at the episode and believes the problem stemmed from pilot exhaustion.

“Pilot fatigue is nothing new and continues to pose one of the most significant threats to air safety – internationally,” he wrote.

A few months ago, pilots for Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines warned airline executives that pilot exhaustion is a problem that happens all too often. They requested that fatigue and its consequences during flight be viewed as a safety risk.

“Fatigue, both acute and cumulative, has become Southwest Airlines’ primary safety threat,” the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) said to airline executives in a letter in April.

According to the document, as the sector begins to recover from the covid-19 pandemic, demand for air travel continues to increase. In addition, many flights have been canceled due to severe weather. For these reasons, pilots are experiencing exhaustion while traveling.

Cases similar to that of Ethiopian Airlines pilots have occurred around the world. In May, an ITA pilot was fired after “falling asleep” during a flight between New York and Rome, Italian newspaper Repubblica reported.

The authorities’ report pointed out that the co-pilot was taking an “authorized rest” at the time, causing the Airbus A330 to lose communication with air traffic control for ten minutes.

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