A wave of panic spread across social media on Sunday evening, when news of a stricken Zimbabwean airliner above the skies of Johannesburg had South Africans gripped. However, according to Airport Companies South Africa (ACSA), the incident over OR Tambo has been resolved.
Flight from OR Tambo “catches fire”
The alarm was raised just before 19:30 on Sunday night. The popular “Pig Spotter” Twitter account shared a video with its 550 000 followers, which purportedly shows flames coming from the side of the aircraft. The Crime Air Network also suggested that an emergency landing was set to take place:
Zimbabwe airliner, Boeing 767, engine on fire. Flight returning to OR Tambo international airport. pic.twitter.com/jWhcr1AnJx
— PigSpotter™ Pty Ltd (@PigSpotter) April 28, 2019
PASSENGER AIRCRAFT ENGINE ON FIRE OVER JHB AIRSPACE : JHB. GP. RETURNING TO OR TAMBO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT. ALL EMERGENCY SERVICES ON STANDBY.
— REZA (@crimeairnetwork) April 28, 2019
Johannesburg “plane fire” – latest news:
However, despite these claims, officials representing OR Tambo International Airport have dismissed suggestions that an “emergency landing” took place:
Alfred Mathekga is a spokesperson for ACSA, and he explained that the fire which was allegedly spotted by the side of Flight UM462 was “self-extinguished” by the pilots.
“We have received more than 20 calls from citizens in Kempton Park, saying that they can see an aircraft on fire. There was a small fire to report, but it has been manually extinguished on-board.”
“We’d like to clarify there was no emergency landing of Flight UM462. The flight is the 18:55 to Harare. The incident took place shortly after takeoff. We will issue a follow-up statement and report to come in due course.”
OR Tambo, Zim officials attempt to clarify “plane fire”
The Boeing 762 was expected to make a safe landing in Harare at 20:40 SAST, according to data acquired from flightradar. Despite ACSA’s insistence that the flight is under control, several sources have since confirmed to us that UM462 had to touch down again at OR Tambo.
Zimbabwean airspace authorities also dismissed rumours of an emergency landing, for either Flight UM462 or for UM303. But it seems like the latter flight is the one that has made it safely into Harare, whereas the former did have to re-route to Johannesburg.
Air Zimbabwe Boeing 767, tail Z-WPF, Flight UM303, maintaining 39,000 feet now in Zimbabwean airspace and showing no sign of distress. South African Twitter rumours of engine fire and emergency landing involving Air Zimbabwe aircraft NOT TRUE pic.twitter.com/XDV1z3mggy
— ZimLive (@zimlive) April 28, 2019
The correct call sign is UM462 and not UM303. UM462 is still on the ground at JNB.
— Annie ✈ ❤ ✈ (@26DegreesSouth) April 28, 2019
Flight UM462 updates
We sought comment about how a “self-extinguish” process would work, but our queries went unanswered. Mathekga was also unaware of allegations that a “bird strike” had put the plane in immediate danger. Despite the confusion, the most important thing here is that no deaths or injuries have been reported.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a disputed “emergency landing” in South Africa this year, either: A FlySafair plane had to make one at Cape Town International following a technical problem. The airport called the incident an emergency, but the airline wasn’t on the same page.
Flight UM462 is still on the tarmac at OR Tambo.
- We’ll have more on this story as it develops.