Travel News

Yikes – Ethiopian Airplane Overflew the Airport Because Pilots Both Fell Asleep

Written by Charlie

This week, an Ethiopian 737-800 airplane bound for Addis Ababa missed the first landing…because both pilots were asleep.

What happens behind the cockpit door typically only ever becomes known to the public when something goes wrong. That is, the black box is recovered and the moments before some tragedy are replayed or there was some mistake and the recordings of the pilots’ transmissions are replayed. It is one of those things that no news is good news.

Airliner Overflew the Airport – Because the Pilots Were Asleep

This week, an incident occurred that brought to light one of those mistakes that happened behind the cockpit door. Ethiopian flight ET343 was enroute from Khartoum to Addis Ababa on August 15. While it does happen that one pilot may nap during a flight, on this particular flight, reports are that both pilots were asleep during the flight.

As a result, the Boeing 737-800 missed its approach into the airport. At this point, the autopilot disengaged and sounded an alarm and this is what woke the pilots up. They went around and made another go of it and landed 25 minutes after missing it the first time.

You can see the full playback and routing of the flight here.

This incident is obviously being investigated and the pilots will be dealt with in some manner. But, I would like to recognize as well how well the airplane system worked. The autopilot worked like it was supposed to and when the approach was missed, it woke the pilots to ensure that they could handle the appropriate action. Even if nothing bad happened, can you imagine if it had not alerted and the flight just kept cruising for another hour or so?

Also, flight controllers on the ground had attempted to reach the pilots multiple times so it was apparent to those on the ground that something was not right. Again, looking on the bright side, at least it was “just” sleeping pilots instead of what those on the ground may have been wondering about.

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.

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