An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-800 did not make the landing approach and continued to fly at 37,000 feet over its final destination, Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) airport, on August 15. The two pilots would have fallen asleep in the cockpit, according to the Aviation Herald.
Flight ET343 departed Khartoum (capital of Sudan) at 3:27 am (local time). As it approached Addis Ababa, the airport’s control tower tried several contacts but there was no response.
Instead of starting the descent, the aircraft continued its flight plan on autopilot until it flew over 37,000 feet altitude to its final destination, when the autonomous system was turned off and the warning signals would have roused the pilots.
According to FlightAware flight data, the pilots maneuvered and made a new approach, landing at 6:15 am (local time). Ethiopian Airlines has yet to comment on the incident.
The intense routine and extreme fatigue that affect airline pilots is one of the risks to air safety. In April of this year, the captain of an ITA Airways flight fell asleep while flying over France.
After 10 minutes without making contact with the aircraft, the Marseille air control tower triggered an alert of a possible terrorist attack and two French fighter jets took off to escort the Airbus A330 that was bound for New York (USA).
The aircraft was also on autopilot and there was no deviation from course, but the captain was fired for misconduct, Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported.