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Did Stress lead To Sleepy Pilot Incident?

No airline likes to suffer bad publicity, but Ethiopian Airlines recently suffered a severe dose of it after two of its pilots were literally caught napping.

The pair were flying a Boeing 737-800 from Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, to Addis Ababa when they nodded off, failing to respond to air traffic controllers and thus missing their planned descent to the airport.

Thankfully, having drifted off at 37,000 ft, they continued on autopilot until they passed the landing point, at which moment an alarm sounded and woke them up.

As a result, the revived pilots were able to take control, circle back over the Ethiopian capital and land safely 25 minutes later, with passengers who subsequently discovered what had happened doubtless relieved that the incident had brought embarrassment rather than tragedy.

Naturally, the incident led to an investigation and the pilots have been suspended. But while much of the reaction was of criticism, others raised concerns about the pressure, fatigue and workload faced by many pilots around the world.

The fact is that being a pilot can be very stressful and stress is a common cause of fatigue. That may suggest it is not just the physical impact of the demands on pilots and other professionals in demanding, stressful jobs that can cause exhaustion to kick in.

Having a career coach can be very helpful in navigating situations like this, where the capacity to stay on top of everything is vital in a situation where physical strain threatens to combine with stress and other pressures of a job to impede performance.

This does not have to extend to incidents as dramatic as falling asleep in the cockpit of an airliner. Getting to grips with the mental strains of a demanding job can also prevent other illnesses, relationship problems, or simple underperformance and impaired decision-making.

Whether your profession involves flying aircraft or any other challenging task, it always helps to have someone who can listen, advise and coach to ensure your working days finish with a soft landing.

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