Passenger tells of scary emergency landing


iol travel jan 5 CT Emirates_9482A

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Emirates has decided to take action immediately and will reroute flights as soon as possible. Picture: CINDY WAXA

Passengers on Emirates flight EK773 to Dubai heard two bangs, and then a third, as the plane levelled out in the air and its landing gear failed to retract minutes out of Cape Town on Wednesday.

“We thought we were goners, to be quite honest. We didn’t know what was happening. There were terrible crunching noises,” British tourist Carol Ann Maxwell told the Cape Times.

Maxwell said she had wept and held her daughter, Kaley Ann’s hand.

The flight left Cape Town for Dubai at 1.55pm and returned to Cape Town at 3.20pm after a technical problem developed with the aircraft’s landing gear, Emirates regional manager Fouad Caunhye said. “At no point was the safety of the 243 passengers or crew at risk.”

Passengers said airline staff had told them after the third “bang” that the plane would turn back, but many passengers complained that they were left in the dark after this.

“When the wheels were supposed to go in we heard a loud thump, and we all knew something was wrong. Everyone just looked at each other nervously,” said Harriet Lowe, who was travelling alone to London via Dubai.

For the next hour and a half the plane circled over the Indian Ocean, apparently to jettison fuel before landing, but at the time many passengers did not know what was happening.

“I thought: ‘What if it’s an emergency landing over the sea?’” Maxwell said.

“We had to fly at an altitude of 6 000 feet so the fuel would evaporate,” passenger Melanie Sheldon said.

Passengers would be put on a replacement flight today, Caunhye said. An investigation was under way.

The city’s Disaster Risk Management spokesman, Wilfred Solomons-Johannes, said the pilot had noticed an undercarriage mechanical failure at 2.37pm, and the city had launched a disaster relief plan and emergency services were dispatched to the scene.

“While the plane was experiencing the difficulties in the air, an emergency landing area was being prepared.”

Solomons-Johannes said the aircraft had circled in the air until the emergency runway was ready. “We offered everyone on board trauma counselling once they landed,” he said.

Fire and Rescue spokesperson Theo Layne said 11 fire engines had been deployed, along with six rescue cars.

Sheldon said her four-year-old son had not eaten since 10am. “I’m actually disgusted by Emirates. I’m exhausted and hungry. Nobody’s been given any information,” she said.

Emirates had booked hotel accommodation for all passengers by the time they left the terminal building, but Sheldon said nothing had been communicated to the passengers of EK773.

Anna Erlank, travelling with three children, said she had not been worried but “irritated about not being able to fly”.

“My children are hungry, hungry, hungry. There’s no consideration for children or mothers travelling with children – it’s a free-for-all,” Erlank said.

“It’s not about the flight turning around. It’s about the service after (the flight was grounded).” - Cape Times

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Anonymous, wrote

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12:06pm on 5 January 2012
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I flew 18 times last year with Emirates from Cape Town and although this was a technical malfunction I don't think it is really the end of the world. No engines fell off (SA airlines....), no one was hurt and in a situation like this it seems like we have to drama things up so we can tell everyone else about our near death experience. Relax, breathe in deeply I am flying with them again on Sunday and I am not stressed in the least!

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Anonymous, wrote

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12:00pm on 5 January 2012
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People seem to forget that their lives were at stake and so was the lives of the crew. They were as scared and "disgusted" as the passengers! Maybe the mother that so likes to complain about her children should have taken better care of them before the flight so they would not have been hungry?

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@Erlank, wrote

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11:37am on 5 January 2012
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If you can afford 4 plane tickets (for yourself and 3 children) surely you can afford to buy food for your children. Why is it the airlines problem that your children are hungry? They will still provide you the food on the plane when you get a new plane today.

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kevin, wrote

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11:26am on 5 January 2012
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Seems like bad post landing service is a thing with any arab airline. I had a very similar experience with egypt air a few years ago

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