South African Airways refutes claims of a fire in the cockpit. Picture: Supplied
South African Airways refutes claims of a fire in the cockpit. Picture: Supplied

SAA on damaged plane drama: 'There was no fire in the cockpit'

By Clinton Moodley Time of article published Aug 7, 2019

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South African Airways has issued an in-depth statement, revealing their side of what happened on a delayed flight on Sunday. 

SAA operated a scheduled flight, SA 209 on Sunday from Johannesburg to Washington DC via Accra. The flight operated from Johannesburg to Accra using Airbus A330-200. 

American singer Deborah Cox was on the flight. 

The US singer, who performed at Ghana World Music Festival, was boarding an SAA flight to the US when the plane experienced some technical issues.

Cox claimed that the flight’s door broke and that there was a “fire in the cockpit”.

She told her fans afterwards: “We just had the scariest situation just happen, there was a fire in the cockpit and we had to do an emergency landing.” (sic). 

She shared her disappointment with the airline on Twitter: "So disappointed in South African Airlines. After 3 hours delay on the plane to take care of a damaged door, they still insisted on flying the damaged plane which later had to turn back around to Accra. Concern for our safety? None!" (sic). 

The airline has refuted claims that there was a fire in the cockpit. They revealed that to make amends to the flight delay, they provided hotel accommodation and other services to mitigate the impact of the inconvenience to passengers. They also dispatched a replacement aircraft from Johannesburg to Accra to fly the passengers to their final destination. 

“South African Airways (SAA) would like to apologise to all its passengers for the inconvenience and anxiety caused to all its customers. While the incidents could not have been foreseen, the decision was taken based on safety considerations, in the best interests of passengers and crew. 

“SAA is grateful that our crew followed every safety procedure and did not discount anything, the airline said. 

 What happened? 

The airline revealed that two unconnected incidents contributed to the delay in departure from Accra on Sunday night. The first was damage to the aircraft door and the other a technical problem, which led to a decision to stop in Accra while the airline waited for a replacement aircraft.  

“Whilst on the ground in Accra, there was a delay which lasted for approximately three hours after 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.” (sic). 

 After refuelling, the aircraft took off but returned to the airport in Accra when the cockpit crew noticed that the aircraft was experiencing a technical problem. The airline stated that the operating crew followed standard operating procedures in cases of emergencies 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 DC. 

“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. 

“Contrary to reports on social media and other platforms, 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,” the statement read. 


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