Comair plane collapse highlights St Helena safety needs

Fire crews stood by after a Comair plane collapsed after landing. Click the image to see Warren Mann's picture in full.

Fire crews stood by after a Comair plane collapsed after landing. Click the image to see Warren Mann’s picture in full.

An aircraft operated by Comair collapsed on to its side after landing at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

The operator – which is due to commence flights to St Helena in early 2016 – reports that all 94 passengers and six crew were safely disembarked with no injuries after one of the plane’s front landing wheels gave way.

The main runway had to be shut down with flights diverted to an alternative – raising questions about what would happen if a similar incident occurred at St Helena’s airport, with its single runway.

The Comair plane rests on one side after collapsing following landing. Picture: Warren Mann

The Comair plane rests on one side after collapsing following landing. Picture: Warren Mann

The Boeing 737-400 had already safely touched down and was performing landing procedures on the runway when crew noticed an unusual vibration. The left landing gear then collapsed and the aircraft came to rest on its wing.

The extent of damage was not clear from pictures.

If a similar incident were to happen on St Helena, removing a plane with a damaged wing would be a major challenge.

Britain’s Daily Express website reported the incident under the sensationalist headline,
BA flight emergency after landing gear collapses and wing ‘BREAKS OFF’ – above a picture showing the wing still clearly attached.

It quoted passenger Warren Mann, who took the pictures on this post, describing sparks coming from the wing as it appeared to come away from the aircraft.

Picture courtesy of Warren Mann, a passenger on the aircraft

Picture courtesy of Warren Mann, a passenger on the aircraft

The airline issued the following statement:

Johannesburg, 26 October 2015: Comair confirms that flight BA6234 a 10:35 departure from Port Elizabeth, with 6 Crew and 94 Passengers on board, was involved in an incident on landing at OR Tambo International Airport today.

We can confirm that all passengers and crew safely disembarked with no reported injuries. Passengers have been taken to the terminal building where staff are currently on hand assisting them and Comair offered all passengers counselling following the incident.

The incident involving a Boeing 737-400, registration ZS-OAA experienced a failure with the landing gear shortly after touching down. The aircraft was on the runway for a short period performing standard landing procedures when the crew noticed an unusual vibration which was followed shortly by the collapse of the left landing gear. ACSA emergency services were dispatched and responded to the scene immediately and assisted passengers and crew to safely disembark.

After the relevant authorities did their preliminary investigation, Comair received clearance to remove the aircraft and will be delivering all baggage to the passengers.

Comair would like to extend an apology to affected passengers for any undue stress and inconvenience. The safety of or passengers and crew is our top priority and Comair and the relevant authorities will be conducting the necessary investigation over the coming days.

Britain’s Express newspaper misreported the incident as a “terrifying” emergency landing:

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