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Drama in mid-air - 'I began imagining my own funeral'

11 May 2018 - 13:56 By Penwell Dlamini
SA Express
SA Express
Image: Turners Travel via Twitter

A SA Express passenger on a flight from East London to Johannesburg has described how people cried‚ prayed - and even laughed - as the plane’s engine failed in mid-air.

Vuyo Zitumane boarded the plane at 6.30am‚ expecting to be in Johannesburg early enough for her meeting in Pretoria.

But after boarding the plane‚ it did not move.

“We delayed for about one hour 40 minutes. At the time I thought it is a power failure because the pilot kept on trying to start the engine and it would fail ... There was a problem with a circuit breaker and the pilot did not want to take chances. An engineer had to come to fix the problem‚ who then confirmed that the problem has been fixed.

"We took off. About five minutes after take off‚ there was a loud bang. Then the plane started to rattle‚ then there was a descent and there was just a funny silence. When a plane is flying‚ you hear the sound of the engine‚ but it was not there‚” she said.

“The pilot continued to fly and we kept on asking 'why are you moving forward'‚ because you can see that the plane has a problem.

"We all became pilots‚ saying the plane must turn back to the airport.

"We were so traumatised by this. It flew at a slow speed for a long time‚ but proceeding in the same direction.

"At some stage it had to turn‚ and then it went back towards the sea and after 20 minutes we were facing the runway. Again all of a sudden‚ it had to go back - now flying deep towards the sea.

"The pilot then announced that we have lost one engine‚” she said. 

"... Ultimately they were able to land the plane."

Zitumane described the flight as the worst she had ever had in her life.

“In the air‚ I actually imagined my own funeral. Literally‚ people were crying and praying. Men were praying in different languages‚ including Chinese tourists. Others were laughing. I think it is how they reacted to the situation. We were all traumatised‚” she said.

Another SA Express flight - from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth - also returned to the airport due to technical problems this morning.

One of the passengers from the Cape Town flight also shared the traumatic moments.

"I should have told my crush I love him‚" said journalist Asanda Magaqa‚ who hauled out her phone and started tweeting her panic.

SA Express has been contacted for comment.