South African Airways (SAA) on Tuesday responded to social media reports that there was a fire in the cockpit of a plane bound for the US.
"Contrary to reports on social media and other platforms, SAA would like to reiterate that there was no fire in the cockpit. SAA would like to reiterate that there was no fire in the cockpit. No one was injured and the aircraft made an air-turn back and landed safely in Accra with all 223 passengers on board and the operating crew," said the national carrier.
The airline apologised to passengers who flew from Johannesburg and Accra to Washington D.C on Sunday.
The airline said two unconnected incidents contributed to the delay in departure from Accra on Sunday night. The first was damage to the aircraft door and subsequent to that, a technical problem occurred which led to a decision to night-stop in Accra whilst waiting for a replacement aircraft.
SAA operated a scheduled flight, SA 209, on Sunday from Johannesburg to Washington D.C. via Accra. The flight operated in a normal way from Johannesburg to Accra. However, while on the ground in Accra, there was a delay which lasted for about three hours. An aircraft door was damaged by a catering truck operated by SAA's service provider at that airport.
The aircraft door was fixed, inspected and found to be in working order to operate.
"The stop-over in Accra en route to the United States is part of SAA's operations in that market and serves to offload and pick up passengers as well as to refuel. After refuelling, the aircraft took off at approximately 03h13 UTC but soon returned to the airport in Accra when the cockpit crew noticed that the aircraft was experiencing a technical problem, which was detected in the cockpit," said the national carrier.
The operating crew followed standard operating procedures in cases of emergency throughout and landed the aircraft safely as soon as possible.
"The incident led to an operational decision that it was undesirable to continue to operate the flight to Washington D.C. There is no information or basis to make a connection between damage to the aircraft door and the technical problem experienced in the cockpit while the aircraft was airborne," it said.
Since Sunday's incident, the aircraft is still on the ground in Accra and is being attended to by technicians to establish the cause of the technical problem.
Meanwhile, SAA provided hotel accommodation to its customers in Accra and provided other services to mitigate the impact of the inconvenience.
In addition, SAA dispatched a replacement aircraft from Johannesburg to Accra to fly the passengers to their final destination.
The flight departed from Accra at 18h01 UTC on Monday, operated as SA9209 and landed in Washington D.C. on Tuesday at 04: 21 UTC.