By Nkosana Dlamini/Agencies
TWO Air Zimbabwe planes flying to Harare from Johannesburg and Bulawayo were both involved in separate mid-air ‘engine fire’ incidents moments after take-off all in a space of 48 hours.
Both incidents were confirmed by the troubled national carrier.
Said the airline concerning the flight from OR Tambo International Airport, “Air Zimbabwe wishes to inform the public that their Boeing 767-200ER aircraft servicing flight UM462 (JNB/HRE) on 28 April 2019 experienced a malfunction resulting in a brief tail pipe fire.”
The statement was issued Sunday evening by the Air Zimbabwe management.
The airline warned that the incident “may result in a disruption to our normal schedule”, adding that its engineers have commenced an investigation into the incident.
Statement RE: UM462/28/04/19. pic.twitter.com/9PN9i59Qs4
— Air Zim Official (@FlyAirZimbabwe) April 28, 2019
Earlier on Sunday evening, several people took to social media after observing and hearing the plane in bursts of flames flying over Kempton Park.
On Friday evening, some top government officials and business executives flying from Bulawayo were relieved when they touched down safely at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport after an Air Zimbabwe aircraft hit birds, resulting in sparks coming from the engine.
The aircraft was flying from Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport in Bulawayo.
Among its passengers were Lands and Agriculture, deputy minister Vangelis Haritatos and other VIPs who were coming from attending the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair.
A relieved Haritatos later took to his Facebook page to narrate his ordeal while thanking the pilot for managing the incident well.
“As our plane took off from Bulawayo tonight, we experienced bird strikes to the left engine which caused a bit of a fireworks show,” he said.
“We were all visibly shaken as blowing sounds and sparks came from the affected engine on impact, but the pilot, Captain Chiwara and his crew were true professionals,” said Haritatos, adding that the pilot waited a few minutes before announcing what had transpired.
“He announced to us that we had just hit several birds and this is known as a bird strike which is something that does indeed happen, but that he had assessed the situation and the plane was safe and that we would continue our journey back to Harare.
“He reassured passengers that they were in safe hands. On successful landing, the ‘entire plane’ applauded the captain and his crew.”
Air Zimbabwe corporate affairs manager Tafadzwa Mazonde, who was one of the passengers, confirmed the incident to State media saying bird strikes were common.
“Bird strikes are common because our planes fly in the birds’ territory,” he said.
“Upon impact, there were some disturbances in the engine, but the crew assessed the situation and decided that it was safe to continue with the journey.”
Mazonde said “physical inspections were done upon arrival in Harare and it was established that the damage did not compromise the fitness of the aircraft and the safety of the passengers. The same plane is flying as we speak.”
It is not the first time Air Zimbabwe aircrafts have had incidents while in transit.
February 2015, an Air Zimbabwe plane was involved in a freak accident after it reportedly hit a bird and was grounded at Victoria Falls International Airport, leaving scores of passengers stranded.
In 2009, some 37 passengers and crew on board a Harare/Bulawayo flight were left petrified when an Air Zimbabwe Chinese-made MA60 60-seater plane struck some warthogs, dangerously skidding off the runway into the grass before it came to a halt.
Smoke and dust engulfed the cabin as passengers screamed for dear life.