2 Pilots Flying From Kenya Fall Asleep Mid-Flight

Photo collage between planes flying in the sky at different altitudes
Photo collage between planes flying in the sky at different altitudes

While flying from Kenya to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, two pilots of Ethiopian Airlines fell asleep causing panic among the passengers.

After falling asleep, the autopilot system activated, allowing the plane to remain on course until a few minutes to landing when it disconnected.

Air Traffic Controllers at the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa noticed unusual flight activities and tried to reach the pilots to no avail. 

The mid-flight nap by the pilots was disrupted when the plane flew over the intended runaway and the alarms that followed the disconnection of the autopilot system.

An undated photo of a charter plane at an airport

Following the sudden awakening, the pilots took control of the aircraft and safely landed on the runway after 25 minutes. Luckily, none of the passengers were harmed when the plane landed. 

According to data from Flight Aware, an international aviation surveillance system, the Boeing 737 flight ET343 from Khartoum through Nairobi to Addis Ababa stayed 37,000 feet without descending even when it was supposed to.

The plane stayed on the runway for about two and a half hours before departing for the next flight.

Speaking on the matter, Alex Macheras, an aviation analyst, stated that the incident highlights the plight of tired pilots in the industry. He added that the incident is deeply concerning.

"Pilot fatigue is nothing new, and continues to pose one of the most significant threats to air safety - internationally," Macheras stated.

Late last year, pilots attached to Kenya's national carrier, Kenya Airways, decried that reducing the number of pilots in a single flight from four to two would result in fatigue. 

The pilots also blamed long flights for the increasing fatigue in the aviation industry. 

AeroGuard, a flight training centre, advises pilots to be well hydrated to avoid fatigue. They ought to maintain a healthy diet and establish a sleep schedule.

Additionally, pilots are warned against too much caffeine to avoid overreliance. They are encouraged to exercise constantly.

An aerial view of Nairobi City's skyline in 2023.
An aerial view of Nairobi City's skyline in 2023.
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