Two pilots were suspended from Ethiopian Airlines after a flight lost control and missed the landing window, remaining at cruising altitude when it reached its destination.
The pilots had fallen asleep, according to an aviation magazine.
On August 15, an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 734 was scheduled to land in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia after an approximately two-hour flight from Khartoum, Sudan, but when it flew over its scheduled arrival point, it was still flying at 37,000 feet (11,000 meters).
Air traffic control tried several times to contact the jet, but failed.
Eventually, an alarm woke the pilots, who alerted the air control officials that they had missed the descent window and successfully landed the plane 25 minutes later.
In a press release, the airline confirmed that the two pilots in question had been suspended: “The crew involved has been withdrawn from operations pending further investigation.
“Appropriate corrective actions will be taken based on the outcome of the investigation.”
Aviation expert Alex Macheras tweeted about the incident, describing it as “very concerning” and highlighting the dangers of pilot exhaustion.
He wrote: “Pilot tiredness is nothing new and continues to be one of the major dangers to flight safety — globally.
Macheras added that the problem is “widespread” and “a problem across the airline spectrum, sometimes systematic”.
In June, the CEO of European low-cost airline Wizz Air faced backlash after telling pilots to overcome exhaustion.
“We can’t run this business when one in five people on a base is sick because the person is tired,” said József Váradi, citing compensation payments. “Sometimes you have to go further. The damage is enormous if we cancel the flight.