Passengers aboard FlySafair flight FA102 on Thursday evening did not get the journey they bargained for when the aircraft had to make an emergency landing shortly after taking off.
The airline released a statement explaining that it was forced to land the plane due to a system error with the aircraft’s weight, and the pilot announced to passengers that they would need to touch back down at Cape Town instead of O.R. Tambo in Johannesburg.
The particular model of the aeroplane is unable to dump fuel and had no other option than to land to lighten the load on board. The aircraft had to remain flying for about two hours to burn off some fuel and get rid of the excess weight before returning to land at Cape Town International Airport.
The airline said the plane was able to land with a full tank of fuel but that there were risks involved, leading to the crew’s decision to burn off fuel before landing to ensure the safety of all on board.
The aeroplane flew in circles above Robben Island for roughly two hours and eventually descended and made a successful landing at the airport. According to the airline, this is a much safer way to meet the landing weight parameters than shedding a load of fuel.
The flight took off at 5.30pm and it was back on the runway at 7.24pm. FlySafair has since issued a statement regarding the incident.
“After take-off the flight crew received an indication that there may be a technical issue with one of the aircraft systems. As a precautionary measure the crew decided to return to Cape Town to further investigate on the ground. Unfortunately the aircraft was in excess of the maximum landing weight permitted for a Boeing 737-400, so the crew were forced to maintain a holding pattern above Robben Island to burn off excess fuel so as to be light enough to land safely. Boeing 737-400 aircraft cannot dump fuel. Cape Town International Airport Air Traffic Control was naturally alerted to the situation and prepared assistance vehicles to meet the aircraft upon landing. The aircraft landed safely at 19:24 where is was met by the ACSA assistance vehicles,” the airline said.
All passengers who were on board were escorted to an alternate flight. Unfortunately, the incident caused delays for flights taking place on the same evening.