ETHIOPIAN Jetliner was compelled to make an emergency landing at the under-capacity Arusha Airport on Wednesday after the pilot allegedly misconstrued directives from the air traffic controller at Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA), Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) clarified.
The pilot instead landed at Arusha Airport whose 1,640 meter runway is too short to safely handle this type of aircraft that requires at least 1,798 meter runway to land with maximum landing weight.
TCAA Director General, Fadhil Manongi, said in a statement in Dar es Salaam that although there was a disabled aircraft on the KIA runway, the airport has a total runway of 3,600 meters long, saying the displacement left the runway length available for use of 3,200 meters, that was sufficient for safe landing of the Boeing 767-300ER, Flight No. ET-815.
Mr Manongi said that the authority was cooperating with Air Accident Investigation Branch at the Ministry of Transport to investigate circumstances which led to aircraft to land at Arusha Airport instead of KIA. "Experts are already on site to make a thorough investigation.
The public will be kept informed as the investigation proceeds," said TCAA boss. He explained that the aircraft was scheduled to land at KIA at 12:55pm and it established radio contact with Kilimanjaro Control Tower at 12:29pm and was instructed to continue with flight and report when having the airport (KIA) in sight.
According to Mr Manongi, the pilot reported having the field in sight and was allowed to continue visually to enable him land in westward direction (runway 27), consequently the air traffic controller cleared the aircraft for landing.
"The air traffic controller after a while without sighting the aircraft tried in vain to re-establish radio contact with the aircraft, but was later informed by Arusha air traffic controller that an aircraft (Boeing 767) was landing at Arusha Aiport runway 27," he noted.
He said that the flight operate regular scheduled trip from Addis Ababa to Kilimanjaro and thereafter was supposed to proceed to Mombasa, Kenya. The incident which left many puzzled occurred at 12:47pm on Wednesday, however, all 213 passengers and screw onboard survived.
Meanwhile, Marc Nkwame reports from Arusha that the fateful Boeing 767 plane, which overran the taxiway at the Arusha Airport where it landed on emergency, has finally been pulled out of the quagmire in which its tires had dug into, through an exercise which lasted for three hours.
Two large winched trucks and an airport tug were used to pull the aircraft from the mud after it overran the taxiway, proceeding into wet ground and dug deep into the mud. However, the plane is still being kept at the Arusha Airport awaiting further inspections before being flown out of the terminal today, according to the Operations Manager, Mr Ronald Mwalyambi.
"The plane will be brought back to KIA and it is from here that the aircraft will be flying to Addis-Ababa," said an official at KIA, Mr Bakari Murusuri.
On the other hand, official reports made available here indicate that the giant aircraft, which is said to be nearly 24 years old, was actually a hired plane and that is why its milky white airframe was plain without any markings.
The aircraft was operating under the Ethiopian Airline Flight ET-815 which was initially destined for Zanzibar Island, having taken off from Addis Ababa-Bole Airport with scheduled stopover at KIA where for some reasons, it failed to land, ending up diving at the tiny terminal in Kisongo.
Transport Minister, Mr Harrison Mwakyembe commented by phone from Dar es Salaam, that official report of the last Wednesday incident was yet to be presented on his desk by experts who investigated the accident.
The company offices here confirmed that the Ethiopian Airlines flight ET-815 from Addis Ababa-Bole Airport (ADD) to Zanzibar's Karume Airport (ZNZ) via KIA (JRO) diverted from the target destination, forcing to land at Arusha Airport (ARK) at about 13:20 hours, Wednesday afternoon.