Eleven hurt as 1time craft catches fire


The South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will launch an urgent investigation into how a 1time aircraft caught fire during a failed takeoff from OR Tambo International Airport yesterday. The freak accident led to 11 people being injured during the emergency evacuation that followed.

Business Day newspaper reports the aircraft, which was destined for Cape Town, allegedly could not take off because of engine failure. “Our investigators will be looking thoroughly into the matter and prepare a watertight report,” Kabelo Ledwaba, manager of communications at the CAA, said yesterday.

Unathi Batyashe-Fillis, a spokeswoman for the Airports Company SA (ACSA), said in a statement that the “pilot left the runway and stopped the aircraft at one of the airport’s aprons.
“ACSA firefighters were already on the scene and responded to an engine fire on the left side of the aircraft.” Ledwaba said the aircraft was taken to a hangar — “either at the airport or a site nearby”.

There were 128 passengers who were evacuated from the aircraft down the emergency chutes. Six of the injured were taken to a nearby hospital. The rest were treated at the airport clinic, the paper says. Ledwaba said the accident rate of SA’s commercial and general aviation aircraft had declined significantly in the past year. A number of safety interventions, including the launch of the General Aviation Safety Initiative in 2008, had contributed to the decline, he said.

In the 12 months to March this year, the number of accidents fell 15% and fatalities dropped 54%, compared with the previous 12 months. “However, small and light aircraft still pose a significant challenge.” In 2007, one of the weakest points was the lack of skilled inspectors but the aviation authority had gone on a recruitment campaign, Business Day reports.

In June, a 1time aircraft had to return to King Shaka Airport, near Durban, immediately after takeoff due to problems with its landing gear. Last year, passengers said an engine caught fire on a 1time flight from Port Elizabeth.

CAA CEO Colin Jordaan recently told delegates at the fourth annual national safety seminar that, in terms of International Civil Aviation Organisation safety requirements, SA was one of the most compliant countries in the world, at 99%, according to most recent data, the paper and the South African Press Association reported.