Ethiopian Airlines, the largest airline in Africa, announced the suspension of two pilots after they allegedly fell asleep during a flight from Khartoum to Addis Abeba.
FlightAware reports that the airliner overshot the runway upon landing at Bole International Airport in the Ethiopian capital on Monday.
The Aviation Herald, an unaffiliated news source, said that both pilots had fallen asleep during the flight and had to be woken up by an alert when autopilot mode was turned off.
After 25 minutes of air travel, the plane reportedly returned to land.
On Friday, Ethiopian Airlines said that flight ET343 had lost contact with air traffic control but was able to land safely after contact was restored.
The airline stated in a statement, “The relevant crew have been withdrawn from operation pending further inquiry,” without mentioning whether or not the pilots had been sleeping.
The investigation’s findings will inform “appropriate corrective action,” it said.
Less than two hours is the typical flying time between the two capitals.
An aviation expert in London named Alex Macheras called the incident “very alarming,” attributing it to widespread weariness as the main cause.
The problem of pilot tiredness is not new, but it remains a global security hazard, as he tweeted.
Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, a Boeing 737 MAX, went down in a field south of Addis Abeba six minutes after takeoff in March of this year, killing all 157 people on board.
Following this tragedy, which occurred just five months after a similar catastrophe in Indonesia, the plane was grounded worldwide for a total of twenty months, only to be put back into service in late 2020.
Ethiopian Airlines, which is wholly owned by the government, generated $3.51 billion in revenue during the 2020/21 fiscal year.