ADDIS ABABA: Two pilots are believed to have fallen asleep and missed their landing during a flight from Sudan to Ethiopia, media reports said.
The incident took place onboard an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-800 enroute from Khartoum to Addis Ababa, according to a report by commercial aviation news site Aviation Herald, CNN reported.
Data obtained by the website indicates that the aircraft was cruising at 37,000 feet on autopilot when it failed to descend at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, its scheduled destination, on August 15.
Air traffic control were apparently unable to reach the crew despite making several attempts at contact. However, an alarm was triggered when the plane overshot the runway and continued along the route, CNN reported.
The aircraft subsequently began to descend, landing safely around 25 minutes later.
Deeply concerning incident at Africa’s largest airline — Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 #ET343 was still at cruising altitude of 37,000ft by the time it reached destination Addis Ababa— Alex Macheras (@AlexInAir) August 18, 2022
Why hadn’t it started to descend for landing? Both pilots were asleep. https://t.co/cPPMsVHIJD pic.twitter.com/RpnxsdtRBf
Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) data shows the aircraft overflying the runway, before beginning its descent and maneuvering for another approach.
Aviation analyst Alex Macheras has since taken to Twitter to express his shock at the "deeply concerning incident," which he suggests may have been the result of pilot exhaustion.
"Pilot fatigue is nothing new, and continues to pose one of the most significant threats to air safety -- internationally," he tweeted on Thursday.
The report comes just months after pilots at Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines warned airline executives that pilot exhaustion was on the rise and urged them to treat fatigue and the resulting mistakes as a safety risk.
"Fatigue, both acute and cumulative, has become Southwest Airlines' number-one safety threat," the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, or SWAPA, told airline executives in a letter back in April, CNN reported.