Urgent probe into emergency plane landing

2011-11-11 14:23

Johannesburg - An urgent probe is underway at Airlink after a plane was forced to make an emergency landing at OR Tambo International Airport, the airline said on Friday.

"I have implemented an urgent internal review of our processes and procedures," chief executive Rodger Roster said in a statement.

"The SA Civil Aviation Authority (Sacaa) has commenced its investigation into last night's regrettable incident," he said, adding that Airlink would co-operate with the Sacaa probe.

Flight SA 8739, with 72 passengers and four crew on board, was forced to ground on its belly on Thursday night after experiencing problems with its nose-wheel.

The aircraft landed safely at 21:20 with its nose-wheel retracted, spokesperson Karin Murray said.

No one hurt

The flight took off from the airport at 19:10 and was expected to land in Pietermaritzburg at 19:40.

"In accordance with procedure, the crew turned back to OR Tambo International and burned off fuel before landing. None of the passengers or crew were hurt in the emergency landing," said Murray.

The company provided alternative travel arrangements for the passengers.

Roster extended his apologies to the passengers and their loved ones for their distress and thanked the Airports Company SA, emergency services and all those who helped take care of the passengers and crew.

Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele congratulated those who ensured the safety of the emergency landing.

"We want to commend the captain and crew of the aircraft, Airports Company South Africa, Air Traffic and Navigation Services, emergency services [and others]," Ndebele said in a statement.

"This again demonstrates our readiness and preparedness as a country to effectively deal with such emergencies."

With the approach of the COP-17 environmental conference in Durban later this month, Ndebele said an integrated and co-ordinated approach to safety-related issues was a top priority.

Passengers changed planes

Roster said he had discussed the incident with the director-general of transport, who would convey to Ndebele his "undertaking to work tirelessly to ensure that we do not compromise the safety of air travellers in South Africa".

Alec Hogg, the founder of Moneyweb, was a passenger on the flight. He recorded his experience of the emergency landing on his blog.

Hogg said the passengers were first seated in a "spanking new" Avro RJ85, but were asked to disembark because of a technical fault.

The second aircraft they boarded was "so old it had ashtrays on the seats".

Hogg said that 15 minutes into the flight the pilot, Harm Kallenberg, announced that the aircraft would return to OR Tambo International airport. He said there was no cause for alarm.

‘Happy to be alive’

Hogg praised the pilot and the air hostesses for remaining calm and keeping passengers informed.
Passengers were shown the "brace" position for an emergency landing.

He wrote that he had "realised absent-mindedly that the seat was too small for me to get my head into my lap as we were instructed to".

He described the landing as "the longest 30 seconds of my life".

The front landing gear had failed and "the bottom of the plane hit the tarmac and a loud noise like skateboarding on a gravel road filled our ears".

Hogg said he felt "very, very happy to be alive".

  • Michael - 2011-11-11 14:41

    It's actually Roger Foster, not Roger Roster. Great research before reporting once again...

      WimpieN - 2011-11-11 15:00

      And it is Harm Kelderman. Not Kallenberg....

  • Ndaba - 2011-11-11 14:43

    excellent work to al the Team involved. However we need action to be taken against those who authorised the air-line to fly.

      rynhardt.ferreira - 2011-11-11 16:30

      Mechanical faults happen all the time and it is not to say that this was due to bad maintenance. Things like this could happen in-flight..

  • Dom - 2011-11-11 14:49

    Scare Link at it again!

      Anthony - 2011-11-11 15:52

      they cant run the sabc they cant run escom they cant run telkom they cant run rand water board so why would they be able to run an airline

  • westlee.venter - 2011-11-11 14:56

    My Girlfriend is an airhostess for AirLink and it gives me great piece of mind knowing she is flying with some of the best pilots is SA..!!!

      Hugh - 2011-11-11 16:31

      I strongly suggest that your girlfriend studies to get certification clearnce on another Aircraft type. The accidents are pilling up. It seeems the LINK names are voodoo.

  • Martha - 2011-11-11 15:01

    So glad they could land safely.All you can do as a passenger is pray and stay calm.

  • renofinch - 2011-11-11 15:03

    Would be nice if you told us what aircraft it was? You know, the basics!

      Blake - 2011-11-11 15:10


      Alan - 2011-11-11 15:50

      Oh, so it was an RJ85 was it? Very enlightening, thank RJ85...

  • Jackie - 2011-11-11 15:26

    Glad everyone is fine. Just concerned as to why Airlink have so many technical issues? This is the third year in a row where they have had problems over the year end. One whole portion of the fleet was grounded 3 years ago. Then the crash land in the school & even injuring a pedestrian. Now this? Somethings just not right!

  • barry.mcbride - 2011-11-11 15:31

    There’s no cause for alarm but be in the brace position for an emergency landing! Enough said!

  • Michael - 2011-11-11 15:47

    I'm glad this happened, because now I can also get a private jet like Zuma, and I should get the taxpayers to buy it for me, only 800 000 000...

  • Alva - 2011-11-11 15:57

    WOW! Thank goodness the landing was a success and not a disaster!

  • j.c.s.mailbox - 2011-11-11 16:08

    Yes this was very prayer evoking for the passengers isnt it. At least the poor maintenanceship was doing what many pastors can achieve :-)

  • Gail - 2011-11-11 16:30

    Just two comments: We have very old planes and awesome pilots - well done guys and girls who drive those things. Secondly: This is why we need at least 2 new planes to fly our first citizen on and planes don't come cheap. JZ has no more desire to fall out of the sky than anyone else does because not even his charm will save him.

  • erich.schuette - 2011-11-11 18:33

    So old it has ashtrays... First entered service in 1983.. Compare with the Boeing 747 in 1970, and Boeing 737-200 in 1967, and Boeing 737-300 Family in 1984. Not really that old. Smoking was only banned on all flights around 1998... So the seats with ashtrays doesn't mean anything in any case.

  • Franzette - 2011-11-11 23:15

    funny...Andrew foster has become Andrew Roster...haha

  • Franzette - 2011-11-11 23:17

    I use to be an air hostess at Link and did not know that Andrew Foster changed his surname to Roster

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