Friday, 20 December 2013

Ethiopian jet roars back to the sky

A Boeing 767 passenger jet rests at the end of the runway after making an emergency landing at Arusha Airport, which is designed to handle only light aircraft.

Arusha. An Ethiopian jet, which had landed unannounced and skidded off the runway in Arusha airport on Wednesday, finally roared back to the sky yesterday.
The Boeing 767-300ER took off at 11:49 am  to the relief of aircraft engineers, air traffic controllers and emergency service officials who had feared the tiny airfield would not enable the huge plane to take off.
“Many people were fascinated to see it flying,” said Ms Rose Ubwe, a research scientist with the Selian Agricultural Research Institute (Sari) which is adjacent to the airport.
The white plane,which had no brand markings besides its Ethiopian registration (ET-AQW), roared  above the Arusha city as it headed to the Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) where it reached within minutes. “It took off at 11:49am and landed at KIA at 11:57am,” said an air traffic controller who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not the official spokesman of the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority. The plane, said to be owned by a tour company, made an emergency landing at the Arusha airport, which is only designed for light aircraft, after what appears to be a communication breakdown with KIA where it was cleared to land.  Arriving in Arusha minutes past 1pm unannounced to the local air traffic controllers, the  jet cruised the entire length of the 1,620 metres runway before skidding into the grass where its tyres were stuck in the rain-soaked soil.
Since late Wednesday engineers from Ethiopia and Tanzania struggled to pull the aircraft onto the tarmac using heavy machinery brought in from KIA. This was accomplished by 4pm on Thursday but nobody was certain it would take off because a plane of its size requires at least 2,341 metres  runway to fly. 
There was a heightened anxiety at the airport located along the Dodoma highway early yesterday as ordinary people, government officials and journalists thronged the airport to witness if at all the ‘giant bird’ would actually take off the ground.
Moments before, the aircraft engineers, fire and rescue service officials as well as air traffic controllers could be seen in a hassle, making final checks to ensure that everything was in order as the giant plane, never seen in the tiny airport’s long history,  prepared for the take off.  People felt relieved and cheered as it roared into the sky not even when it had covered three-quarters of the entire stretch of the runway.
An aviation expert at the airport said the plane applied specialised equipment which are used during times of ‘short take-offs and landing’ or STOL normally necessitated by unforeseen circumstances such as landing in a small or ill equipped airport.