ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES IN EMERGENCY LANDING AT ARUSHA MUNICIPAL FIELD
(Posted 18th December 2013 14.15 hrs local EAT)
Information was just received from a regular airline source in Tanzania that Ethiopian Airlines apparently had an unscheduled landing of a B767-300ER at the Arusha Municipal Airport around 13.15 hrs local time. The airport’s runway is reportedly only 1.620 metres long, or 5.315 feet, too short for regular B767 operations, so the question is now being asked what prompted this high risk landing at ARK (IATA three letter code) / HTAR (ICAO four letter code). The airport’s elevation is given in official documents as 4.550 feet above mean sea level or 1.387 metres. The aircraft, registered as ET-AQW was operating on flight number ET815 from Addis via Kilimanjaro to Zanzibar and back to Addis.
From initial reports it appears that none of the passengers or crew have been injured and that the plane made it to a complete halt just before the end of the runway. The airport has also reportedly been closed for any other flights in and out of ARK requiring the rescheduling of Precision Air’s flights as well as a number of charters from and to the national parks.
Sources based at Kilimanjaro International Airport just gave added details that the flight was approaching JRO but could not land due to an aircraft on the runway with a problem. Why the flight was then diverted to ARK and not a standard diversion airport like Nairobi or Dar es Salaam will be subject to a detailed investigation, especially if rumours were to be confirmed that the incoming flight was short of fuel. The diversion to Arusha Municipal Airport is already being hotly debated in local aviation circles as it put passengers, crew and aircraft at extreme risk. It is unclear if the B767, even if stripped of equipment and seats, will be able to safely take off from ARK and fly to JRO, when that airport is eventually open and fully operational again.
While full compliments must be extended to the cockpit crew for their skills to land the plane safely the reasons for the diversion will be subject to a full air incident enquiry with all options presently kept open as to the reasons for the unscheduled diversion. Stand by for more updates as and when more news and additional information become available.
16.00 hrs EAT
Additional information just received now confirms that the plane actually overshot the short runway at Arusha Municipal Airport and the front wheels got stuck in soft soil. Further updates are expected in due course.