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Pilots on Ethiopian Airlines flight reportedly fall asleep, miss landing

The airline, the biggest in Africa, said the involved crew was “removed from operation” pending an investigation.

Two pilots on an Ethiopian Airlines flight reportedly fell asleep and missed their landing, according to the commercial aviation news site Aviation Herald.

The Boeing 737-80 was en route to Ethiopia from Sudan on Monday when the pilots dozed off, causing the aircraft to fly past the runway at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport.

Air traffic control tried to contact the crew multiple times but could not reach anyone, Aviation Herald reported. Eventually, an alarm sounded in the plane waking the sleeping pilots, according to the news site.

The pilots safely landed the plane about 25 minutes later.

Ethiopian Airlines, Africa's largest airline, did not confirm that the pilots fell asleep but said it received a report about a flight temporarily losing communication with air traffic control.

"The flight later landed safely after communication was restored," the airline said in a statement.

The involved crew was "removed from operation" pending an investigation, the statement continued.

"Appropriate corrective action will be taken based on the outcome of the investigation. Safety has always been and will continue to be our first priority," the airline said.

Aviation analyst Alex Macheras said the incident was "deeply concerning." He said in a tweet Thursday that it once again sounds the alarm on pilot fatigue, an issue many U.S. pilots have raised.

In June, more than 1,300 Southwest Airlines pilots stood on a picket line in Dallas, Texas, to demand better work conditions. In a statement to NBC News at the time, the union said that they had been in contract negotiations for more than two years while noting that "pilot fatigue rates have reached an all-time high."

One pilot. Capt. Casey A. Murray, who is also the president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, said that pilots have been "under a lot of stress for the past year," noting that frequent flight reassignments have left pilots feeling fatigued and frustrated.

"Pilot fatigue is nothing new," Macheras tweeted, adding that it "continues to pose one of the most significant threats to air safety — internationally."