Both pilots flying a Boeing 737 for Ethiopian Airlines fell asleep at the controls and missed their landing Monday — before being jolted awake by an alarm when the autopilot disconnected.
Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET343 was supposed to touch down at 6:20 a.m. in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia after a two-hour flight from Khartoum, Sudan, the Aviation Herald reported.
However, air traffic control in Ethiopia’s capital noticed that instead of descending for the final approach, the jet — which has a 154-seat capacity — remained at a cruising altitude of 37,000 feet.
Controllers made multiple attempts to contact the pilots, but to no avail.
After the plane overshot the runway without descending, the autopilot on board disconnected, triggering an alarm that woke the drowsy aviators, according to the Herald.
The reinvigorated pilots then made a loop and approached the runaway again, this time landing the aircraft safely 25 minutes later, as shown by Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast data.
Ethiopia’s news outlet Fana reported that both pilots have been suspended pending an investigation into the incident.
Aviation analyst Alex Macheras called the in-flight nap “deeply concerning” and blamed “pilot fatigue.”
“Pilot fatigue is nothing new, and continues to pose one of the most significant threats to air safety — internationally,” he tweeted.
In May, the Italian news outlet La Repubblica reported that a pilot working for the state-operated airline ITA had been fired for allegedly falling asleep during a transatlantic flight from New York to Rome.