SACAA says Airlink flight was not hijacked

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South African regional airline, Airlink, has apologised to “everyone affected by the incident involving its flight S8678 involved in an anomalous hijack alert” on Monday.

It appears air traffic navigation equipment on the ground displayed a hijacking alert about 20 minutes before scheduled touchdown at Pretoria’s Wonderboom Airport after taking off from Cape Town International earlier in the day.

The “alert” saw what the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has termed “mandatory hijack response procedures” activated. This included deployment of a specialised police hijack response team.

The Avro RJ aircraft was kept on the ground for over two hours while police and sniffer dogs ensured that the aircraft was not indeed hijacked. It has apparently been declared fit for service and is back to scheduled operations.
“The necessary checks to ascertain the aircraft had not been hijacked were conducted,” according to a statement.
“SACAA is satisfied that despite this being a false alarm, the stipulated procedures for dealing with an incident of this nature were correctly followed. This demonstrates the readiness of the various South African civil aviation and other State agencies when faced with a potential threat. SACAA commends all officials who immediately activated emergency procedures on learning of the alert,” the country’s aviation safety regular said.

Airlink chief executive Rodger Foster said, via social media: “I want to acknowledge and thank our incredible customers and crew for their patience and calm during what must have been an anxious and distressing time.
“The safety and well-being of our customers and staff is our top priority. Although the procedures that had to be followed caused frustration and inconvenience, they enabled the Police’s Special Task Force to take every possible step ensure the aircraft and all aboard were safe and free of any threat. For the Special Task Force and their dedication to their task, we are thankful.”