A surprising and scary event took place earlier this week that showed the growing gaps in the airline industry.
When it comes to common flying nightmares, fretful passengers can imagine a lot of different possibilities. Everything from a crack in the window to the plane running out of fuel may cross their minds.
In some cases their fears are enough to keep them from flying altogether.
Fears of flying are unfounded, as there are between 7,782 and 8,755 commercial aircraft in the sky at any given time. This is especially true considering that more people than ever are looking to fly after the covid outbreak.
Yet occasionally, like earlier this week, a nightmare scenario emerges in the middle of flight.
What Happened On That Boeing 737-800
An Ethiopian Airlines flight was traveling from Khartoum in Sudan to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia on August 15, at 37,000 feet. According to reports from Addis Abeba Bole International Airport air traffic controllers, they lost contact with the plane’s pilots as it neared the point to begin its descent.
As first reported by aviation news site Aviation Herald, the plane continued flying on autopilot past the point where it was supposed to start descending.
Once the plane had flown over the airport entirely, the autopilot failed, setting off an alarm that brought the pilots back to the controls so they could land safely.
A post-crash investigation determined that both pilots on board had dozed off at the controls.
Many criticized the airline for allowing such a situation to happen and “the level of incompetence.”
There Is a Serious Problem with the Lack of Flight Attendants
Despite the comical nature of the situation, many have pointed out that it is indicative of larger issues in the industry.
As the world emerged from the chaos caused by covid, demand for travel surged. Many airlines could not rehire the staff they laid off in 2020 and 2021 fast enough.
A shortage of pilots existed even before the pandemic because of the high cost of getting a license (a minimum of $10,000 plus 1,500 hours of paid flight time). One study estimates that North American airlines will be short 12,000 pilots by the end of 2023.
Even the U.S. Airforce currently has 1,500 pilots fewer than it wants to hire, while the mandatory retirement age of 65 also shortens the careers of those who are licensed.
“Pilot fatigue is nothing new, and continues to pose one of the most significant threats to air safety — internationally,” aviation analyst Alex Macheras wrote on Twitter (TWTR) – Get Twitter Inc. Report.
The post-pandemic spike in travel has been causing massive staffing shortages and straining the airport employees who are working in everything from baggage handling to flying.
Since there weren’t enough baggage handlers at various European airports, Delta (DAL – Get Delta Air Lines Inc. Report) flew an empty Airbus A330-200 from London to Detroit back in July.
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Budget airline Jet2 “refuses to recognize increasing concern from its pilots about fatigue and stress caused by roster disruption,” according to a statement released by the pilots’ union Balpa in July.
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