Some of the kids were a bit traumatised - Airlink passenger

2016-07-12 11:54
The Airlink plane on the runway at Wonderboom Airport. (Supplied)

The Airlink plane on the runway at Wonderboom Airport. (Supplied)

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Pretoria - Some of the children who disembarked from an Airlink plane that sent out a false hijack alert were traumatised, a fellow passenger said.

Desire Strydom, who was aboard SA8678 from Cape Town to Wonderboom on Monday, told a videographer on the scene, Daniel Shelley, that they had to go through a number of procedures despite the false alarm.

"Women and children had to get off first onto the staircase, where a [police] man was standing with his weapon because this is now a possible hijacking," she said in Afrikaans.

"Some of the kids were a bit traumatised."

Bags left behind for sniffer dogs

Seventy-two passengers sat in their seats for a few hours as police, medics, fire and other officials gathered around the plane on the runway.

Strydom said she and other travellers had walked with their hands on their heads to an assembly point.

They were searched one by one. They also had to leave their bags behind for the sniffer dogs to check.

"It was actually bad, because we knew it was a false alarm, but we still had to go through the procedures."

SA Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson Kabelo Ledwaba said a false hijack alert had been set off 10 minutes before the plane was due to land at 12:15.

Despite the false alert, Ledwaba said the mandatory hijack response procedures were activated. The police's hijack response team checked to make sure the aircraft was not hijacked.

Strydom said the initial panic and subsequent delay was really not the best day of her life.

She said passengers had first read of hijacking rumours online and family members had phoned them in a panic to check they were safe.

Only after some time did the captain tell them not to worry because the rumours were false, she said.

"But at that stage, we didn’t know what to believe because there were police going past us."

‘Anomalous’ hijack alert

Fellow passenger Rofhiwa Mudau said the captain indicated that the aircraft had sent false alarm signals to the control tower of a hijacking.

He added that people were a bit more relaxed after that.

Miranda Ramashala, also on the plane, said most passengers were calm, but tired. Staff had apparently been kind and offered them water.

In a statement on its website, Airlink said it would assist authorities with their inquiry, a mandatory step following such incidents.

It said the aircraft had "emitted an anomalous hijack alert through its transponder".

"Airlink has also initiated an internal investigation into the erroneous transmission."

Ledwaba said they were satisfied with the way in which the incident had been handled.

"This demonstrates the state of readiness of the various South African civil aviation and other State agencies when faced with a potential threat," said Ledwaba.

He commended all officials who immediately activated their emergency procedures after the alert.

WATCH: Today was not the best day of my life - Airlink passenger

Read more on:    saa  |  pretoria  |  air  |  travel

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