Something about flying in a commercial airliner always puts me to sleep if the flight is long enough. It could be the sounds. I might just find the whir of the turbine engine and the air rushing over the fuselage calming. I know it’s certainly not the cramped seats. In my opinion, sleeping through a flight is the most enjoyable way to experience air travel, but I’m a passenger. I hope that the pilots aren’t falling asleep while at the controls. However, a pair of Ethiopian Airlines pilots dozed off during a flight earlier this week.
Early Monday morning, an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-800 was operating a flight from Sudan’s capital of Khartoum to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. According to the Aviation Herald, as the airliner neared Addis Ababa, the flight crew did not respond to air traffic control’s numerous attempts to contact the aircraft for final approach to Bole International Airport. Ethiopian is headquartered at Bole. The state-owned flag carrier is Africa’s largest commercial carrier by all significant metrics, passengers carried, destinations served, fleet size and revenue. The Boeing 737 continued along the route input into the flight management computer and overflew the runway at 37,000 feet.
The runway overflight was the point where the flight crew woke up because the autopilot disconnected, and the associated alarm went off. Almost half an hour had passed since the initial failure to respond to air traffic control. Once the pilots arose from their slumber, they safely landed the 737 at the airport as originally scheduled. It’s not completely clear how long the crew was asleep.
The flight crew will have much more time to sleep now that they have been suspended by Ethiopian Airlines.