Last week, Ethiopian Airlines pilots were fast asleep when their aircraft arrived at their destination airport. The pilots were unaware that they have arrived hence they did not initiate descent leading to the aircraft by-passing the airport
They pilot were awaken about 15 minutes after passing their destination when the autopilot disconnection alarm went off. The alarm woke the pilots up hence were able to return to the airport and land without further incidence.
Before they were awaken, Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) tried to get a hold of the pilot but in vain. The Ethiopian Airlines aircraft was cruising at FL370 (37,000ft) when the incidence happened.
The aircraft being flown was a Boeing 737-800 with registration number ET-AOB servicing flight ET343 from Khartoum (KRT) to Addis Ababa ( ADD). This flight was supposed to take approximately 1.5 hours long but it was 15 minutes late.
Other Airline Pilots Caught Sleeping on the Job
In April 2022, both pilots of an ITA Airways flying from New York’s JFK to Rome, Italy slept on the job as the ATC frantically tried to communicate with them. The aircraft they were flying at the time was an Airbus A330-300. Fighter jets were about to be scrambled to intercept the aircraft when the pilots finally woke up.
The ITA Airways jet had 290 passengers on board and the incidence happened on airspace above France. It is estimated that both pilots were asleep for at least 10 minutes. ITA Airways was formerly known as Alitalia that went bankrupt last year.
Also, on February 13, 2008, a Bombardier CL-600-2B19, N651BR, operated by Mesa Airlines as Go! Flight 1002 departed Honolulu International Airport (HNL), on a regularly scheduled domestic, passenger flight using the call sign Air Shuttle Flight 1002 (ASH1002). About halfway through the flight, the pilots of ASH1002 fell asleep and stopped responding to air traffic control communications.
While out of radio communications, the flight passed over its destination airport, General Lyman Field (ITO), Hilo at cruise altitude. After traveling 26 nautical miles beyond ITO on a constant heading, the flight crew woke up and resumed radio communications with air traffic control who gave them vectors to return to the ITO airport where they landed without incidence.
Pilots sleeping on the job is nothing new. According to BBC News quoting a pilots’ union survey, of the 56 per cent who admitted sleeping, 29 per cent told the union that there were occasions when they woke up to find the other pilot asleep as well.
Ethiopian Airlines Fleet
Currently, Ethiopian Airlines has a total of 138 aircraft in its fleet. The breakdown is as follows:
18- Airbus A350-900XWB
19- Boeing B787-8
8- Boeing B787-9
4- Boeing B777-300ER
6- Boeing B777-200LR
3- Boeing B767-300ER
9 – Boeing B777-200LRF (Cargo)
19- Boeing B737-800
7 – Boeing B737 MAX
9- Boeing B737-700NG
32- Q400 Bombardier
4 -Boeing B737-800F ( Cargo)