SA Express details problems with East London flight, as it experiences a second incident
SA Express has given the details of what happened on flight SA1412 from East London to Johannesburg‚ which experience an explosion shortly after take-off on Friday.
On the same morning‚ another SA Express flight — from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth — also returned to the airport because of technical problems. SA Express has not yet commented on the second incident.
"The captain on board [SA1412] confirmed that after departure‚ as the aircraft was climbing to reach altitude‚ there was an engine malfunction‚" said acting CEO Matsietsi Mokholo. She said there was no immediately apparent reason for the engine malfunction and procedures to clear the flight had been followed. SA Express was co-operating with the South African Civil Aviation Authority in its investigation into the cause of the malfunction.
"The captain shut down the engine of the Bombardier CRJ700 regional jet [and] the SA Express crew initiated precautionary emergency procedures and notified passengers that the flight would return to East London Airport. The flight landed safely at the airport and the airline is making alternative arrangements to transport the passengers on flight 1412," said Mokholo.
Vuyo Zitumane‚ who boarded the plane at 6.30am‚ detailed the drama. She said after boarding the plane‚ it did not move. "We [were] delayed for about one hour and 40 minutes. At the time I thought it was a power failure because the pilot kept on trying to start the engine and it would fail.
"There was a problem with a circuit breaker and the pilot did not want to take chances. An engineer had to come to fix the problem‚ who then confirmed that the problem has been fixed.
"We took off. About five minutes after take off‚ there was a loud bang. Then the plane started to rattle‚ then there was a descent and there was just a funny silence. When a plane is flying‚ you hear the sound of the engine‚ but it was not there‚" she said.
"The pilot continued to fly and we kept on asking ‘why are you moving forward’‚ because you can see that the plane has a problem. We all became pilots‚ saying the plane must turn back to the airport. We were so traumatised by this. It flew at a slow speed for a long time‚ but proceeding in the same direction.
"At some stage it had to turn‚ and then it went back towards the sea and after 20 minutes we were facing the runway. Again all of a sudden‚ it had to go back — now flying deep towards the sea. The pilot then announced that we had lost one engine,"
Zitumane described the flight as the worst she had ever had. "In the air‚ I actually imagined my own funeral. Literally‚ people were crying and praying. Men were praying in different languages‚ including Chinese tourists. Others were laughing. I think it is how they reacted to the situation. We were all traumatised."