'It would be irresponsible to speculate': SAA on Covid-19 vaccine flight incident

24 March 2021 - 16:36
By Graeme Hosken
The SAA aircraft experienced an 'alpha floor event' on takeoff. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/Igor Medvedskiy The SAA aircraft experienced an 'alpha floor event' on takeoff. Stock photo.

SAA has downplayed an incident during takeoff involving the airline’s controversial flight to Brussels to collect Covid-19 vaccines for the country, saying an “investigation is under way”.

Minutes after SAA 4272 took off from OR Tambo International Airport on February 24, the Airbus A340-600, experienced an “alpha floor event”. This  is when an aircraft, either on takeoff or landing, does not have enough thrust and goes into a stall. When this happens, computers automatically take control and prevent the plane from crashing.

Such incidents, which the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has described as serious, are meant to be reported to the regulator within 24 to 72 hours.

SACAA spokesperson Kabelo Ledwaba said the regulator was informed only three weeks after the incident.

SAA said in a statement on Wednesday that “it was the appropriate actions of the flight crew that prevented any further warnings, the aircraft continued with its acceleration profile, and continued on to Brussels”.

SAA business rescue practitioner Siviwe Dongwana downplayed the incident in the statement.

“There have been a number of exaggerated and inaccurate reports in the media concerning this incident which are unfortunate given that the incident is currently being investigated.”

The statement said the investigation was being conducted by SAA’s safety department.

“The SACAA was notified and as required, SAA is co-operating with the SACAA and with their enquiries into the matter. Once the investigation has been completed, and SAA has identified the reasons for this event, the airline will implement the identified appropriate systemic remedial actions which may address any deficiencies in the organisational system.

“It would be irresponsible to speculate before the investigations are completed as to why the warning was signalled.”

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