Ethiopian Airlines Captain Flees Country After Falling Asleep On Flight

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 involved 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 ‘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 time indicating that an investigation would be launched, and that both pilots were temporarily suspended.

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. 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. that he had slept for around five to six hours during the day.

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?

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