Ethiopian Airlines Captain Flees Country After Falling Asleep On Flight

Ethiopian Airlines Captain Flees Country After Falling Asleep On Flight

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In mid-August, Ethiopian Airlines was in the news after both pilots fell asleep during a flight, causing them to miss their approach to Addis Ababa Airport. There’s an interesting update to this story.

Basics of the Ethiopian Airlines incident where pilots fell asleep

For those who didn’t see the story the first time around, this incident involves the August 15, 2022, Ethiopian Airlines flight ET343 from Khartoum, Sudan (KRT), to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (ADD), operated by a Boeing 737-800. The 620-mile flight was blocked at 1hr50min. The flight climbed all the way up to 37,000 feet, but unfortunately things didn’t go so smoothly from there:

  • Air traffic controllers attempted to reach the pilots multiple times, without response
  • The plane continued on the approach course for runway 25L that was entered into the flight management computer (FMC); that means the plane made the correct approach, it just didn’t descend at all (since altitude adjustments have to be programmed separately)
  • After overflying runway 25L at 37,000 feet (the runway is at an altitude of ~7,600 feet, so they were 29,000+ feet too high), the autopilot disconnected, and clearly that alarm woke up the pilots

Ethiopian Airlines had released a statement at the the time indicating that an investigation would be launched, and that both pilots were temporarily suspended. There’s now an update.

Ethiopian Airlines captain flees country after flight

AINonline has an update regarding the pilots of this Ethiopian Airlines flight.

After landing in Addis Ababa, the Bolivian captain of the flight (who had been at the airline for four years) decided to flee the country the same morning. Specifically, he took a connecting flight to Rio de Janeiro that same day, and then shortly thereafter submitted his resignation via email. He ended up being interviewed after the fact by phone, and sources suggest that he had a significant amount of off-duty hours prior to the flight.

The young Nigerian first officer (who had been at the airline for one year) agreed to be questioned in person. He had arrived in Addis Ababa the day before his flight from Kigali, Rwanda, roughly 15 hours before the flight to Khartoum. He claimed that he had slept for around five to six hours during the day. He has now also been terminated from the airline.

Ethiopian Airlines doesn’t exactly have the best reputation among ex-pat pilots, in terms of working conditions, pay, etc. While the captain should of course have been fired for this, I can’t say that I blame him for just deciding to leave the country and resign by email.

I suspect another difference is that the Nigerian first officer actually lived in Addis Ababa, while the captain commuted. So presumably the first officer couldn’t just practically pack one suitcase and leave.

Bottom line

Both pilots of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 fell asleep on a short mid-August flight. It’s not surprising that both pilots ended up being fired, but what’s interesting is the different approaches the two pilots took.

Both pilots were from other countries, yet one fled Ethiopian literally within hours of landing off this flight, and then submitted his resignation by email. Meanwhile the other pilot cooperated with investigators in-person, but still ended up being fired.

What do you make of this situation?

Conversations (20)
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  1. Ahmed Guest

    Never flying them again. They should stop overworking these pilots. They’re responsible for human lives for crying out loud.

  2. Russell Robinson Guest

    Before we leap to the sensational conclusion that both pilots “fell asleep” because they were tried. That specific aircraft should be pulled from the line and it’s cockpit ventilation systems be inspected by maintenance to MAKE sure there isn’t any anomaly that could have introduced contaminated air which could have had for example Carbon dioxide. It would not be the first time pilot fell asleep due to incorrect ventilation. Let’s track that particular 737 and...

    Before we leap to the sensational conclusion that both pilots “fell asleep” because they were tried. That specific aircraft should be pulled from the line and it’s cockpit ventilation systems be inspected by maintenance to MAKE sure there isn’t any anomaly that could have introduced contaminated air which could have had for example Carbon dioxide. It would not be the first time pilot fell asleep due to incorrect ventilation. Let’s track that particular 737 and see if it happens again.

  3. Tony Guest

    The quality of pilots on foreign carriers always has me picking US-based carriers or carriers from countries that dont rely on outsourced pilots from non-western countries. Oh yay fancy champaigne and meals does me no good when my plane crashes because my pilot doesn't have 20 years of flying experience with his/her country's respective air force.

    1. JWags Guest

      Which airlines have fancy meals and "luxury" products but terrible safety records? Its not like Etihad/Singapore/Emirates/Thai/etc...means you're trading luxury for risk

    2. Eskimo Guest

      So you want an ex-Air Force pilot with 20 years flying experience?

      I doubt a 20 year veteran pilot Mozambique Air Force, which flies only 50 years old MiG-21, would be much safer than a young pilot trained exclusively to fly a commercial airliner.

      And I don't think ET has fancy Champagne and meals.

    3. Russell Robinson Guest

      Tony that assessment of pilot ability could be misread. Stick to the facts. Baboons can be taught to fly the SR-71. Is humans and their various cultures, biases and prejudgments that make those distinctions. I personally turned down a job at American Airlines in 1985-86, when a certain recently retired senior pilot (in my presence) stated “Clint send him to Dallas with me, we are hiring blacks now”. I said “f” that. Because I was...

      Tony that assessment of pilot ability could be misread. Stick to the facts. Baboons can be taught to fly the SR-71. Is humans and their various cultures, biases and prejudgments that make those distinctions. I personally turned down a job at American Airlines in 1985-86, when a certain recently retired senior pilot (in my presence) stated “Clint send him to Dallas with me, we are hiring blacks now”. I said “f” that. Because I was supposed to be the token black pilot and get a job because I was black. Not because the white man speaking believed I could fly a jet.

  4. ALMOST AN ESKIMO BUT NOT QUITE Guest

    I wonder how many times they were asleep at the wheel and DIDN'T get caught? They got caught this time because the autopilot turned itself off, setting an alarm I think.

  5. Leigh Guest

    I assume this affects their employability at any other airline? It's not like the pilot that ran off is going to get a good reference from ET!

    1. Rotuma Gold

      “Why did you leave your previous employer?”

      “Oh, they just overreacted because I fell asleep on the job.”

  6. david Guest

    I'm a frequent flyer of ET. This is a bad look. Disturbing actually.

    1. Elias Desta Guest

      Why is this never been reported by major news outlets? Because it never happened. TPLF would pull every shenanigans in the book to make it seem like bad. Guess what it never stopped flying or my friends! Get a life.

    2. David Guest

      A simple Google search would show you it has been covered in many major outlets like CNN, NY Times, BCC, Fortune, ABC, CBS? The list goes on. I spend a lot of in Ethiopia, and have friends there. So I get it. Please don't insult me or make foolish claims without doing a little fact checking yourself.

    3. Russell Robinson Guest

      Let us not act like that did not happen in the USA before. One pilot claimed he was checking his stock portfolio. And that was just after 911, almost got shot down. Google the story. It happened. So let’s dispense with the veiled statements. Just come out and say what you are thinking.

  7. Brehan Guest

    A Tigrayan may have paid the Bolivian and Nigerian a hefty sum from the money Tigreans looted during their 27 yars rule intending to sabotage Ethiopian. After all the previous boss of Ethiopia who never returned after sick leave time off abroad was of Tigrean origin who packed the airlines with Tigrean pilots even though the Tigrans made only a 5% minority of Ethiopia population but reportedly were close to 50% of the employees. This...

    A Tigrayan may have paid the Bolivian and Nigerian a hefty sum from the money Tigreans looted during their 27 yars rule intending to sabotage Ethiopian. After all the previous boss of Ethiopia who never returned after sick leave time off abroad was of Tigrean origin who packed the airlines with Tigrean pilots even though the Tigrans made only a 5% minority of Ethiopia population but reportedly were close to 50% of the employees. This Andy who wrote as guest jumped the real conspiratorially
    motive behind this incident: Even if he was told what happened he said he won’t fly Ethiopian again. That is the intended motive from the beginning.

  8. abey Guest

    this makes me extremely uncomfortable flying them again, the whole culture seems off, as much as i dislike US carriers the big ones have a good safety culture

    1. JH Guest

      You're not allowed to question or be criticize non-white, Western culture.

    2. Ten Guest

      Sure. Look up how many US carrier pilots have been arrested trying to board and fly an aircraft while drunk or with high blood alcohol levels. Choose your poison.

  9. Eskimo Guest

    The pilot took off before he got punished.

    Ethiopian Airlines deserves a meme.

    A pilot sleeps on the wheel, flees to escape punishment.
    A Tigrayan sleeps in the wheel, flees to escape genocide.

    1. Ten Guest

      At least there’s freedom of movement unlike when TPLF was in power.

  10. BenjaminGuttery Diamond

    Scary incident. They are lucky that the airport wasn't neat the same elevation, or that they didn't fall asleep while decending..

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

abey Guest

this makes me extremely uncomfortable flying them again, the whole culture seems off, as much as i dislike US carriers the big ones have a good safety culture

4
Rotuma Gold

“Why did you leave your previous employer?” “Oh, they just overreacted because I fell asleep on the job.”

2
david Guest

I'm a frequent flyer of ET. This is a bad look. Disturbing actually.

2
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