Passengers aboard a Kulula flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town this morning experienced mid-air terror – when the aircraft was hit by heavy turbulence shortly before landing at Cape Town International Airport.
Johannesburg-based publicist, Gavin Prins, was a passenger on the flight.
Speaking to Independent Media a few hours after the ordeal, Prins said he was lucky to be alive.
"We had just passed over Somerset West when the plane suddenly dropped what felt like three storeys, and began tilting sideways," a still-shaken Prins recalled.
He said the plane was battered by extreme turbulence, and felt as if it was being 'trapped in air pockets between the clouds'.
"At one point you could hear the engine; it sounded like a car accelerating very fast. The next thing we knew, the plane was nose up, with the tail pointed downwards. It felt like the pilot was trying to stabilise it by flying up and out of all the clouds and turbulence."
Prins said the six-minute ordeal felt like it had lasted a lifetime.
"I am still traumatised. I was screaming, everyone around me was screaming. Three or four people got out of their seats at one point while the plane was going sideways, and tried to open the emergency exits.
"An air hostess came over the radio to tell us to remain calm and in our seats, and then the plane was battered by the winds again, and she started screaming too."
Prins said that when the pilot eventually managed to regain control of the aircraft and make a shaky landing at Cape Town International, he couldn't believe that they had survived the flight.
"I thought I was going to die. I kept thinking about my three children, and my four-year-old daughter who had begged to fly with me this morning.
"I can't imagine what would've happened had she come with. When I entered the terminal building, the tears just started flowing uncontrollably. When I fetched my rental car, I was still shaking," Prins said.
He added that the only communication he had received from Kulula, was in a tweet:
Thank you for sharing this with us, we are truly sorry to hear of your experience.
William Smook, senior consultant for Meropa Communications, issued a statement on behalf of kulula.com.
"A passenger aboard a kulula.com flight to Cape Town International Airport today was hurt when the aircraft encountered severe turbulence during the descent after the fasten-seatbelt instruction had been given.
"The incident occurred in clear weather about 20 minutes out of Cape Town. Our highly-trained crew assisted the passenger," Smook said.
He added that the safety of Kulula customers and crew was the foremost priority.
Meanwhile, Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) spokesperson Deidre Davids confirmed to Independent Media that no flights had been cancelled flying in or out of Cape Town International Airport today.
"Most flights departed or arrived on schedule, and all flights remain on schedule for this evening. However, two flights that were due to land in Cape Town this morning were diverted, due to the heavy winds. One plane diverted to East London, and the other to Johannesburg," Davids said.
Anyone traveling to or from Cape Town on domestic or international flights this evening is instructed to confirm flight details on the airline website prior to departure.