UPDATE: SACAA investigating technician left on Kenya Airways flight, forcing it to return to OR Tambo

2019-11-06 13:51
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Passenger airplane landing at dusk

(Photo: iStock)

The South African Civil Aviation Authority is investigating an incident in which a technician who was meant to remain in Joburg, ended up leaving on board an Kenyan Airways flight bound for Nairobi. 

Kabelo Ledwaba, spokesperson for the SACAA says, "We are investigating this matter, but understand this was not a stowaway but a technician." 

Ledwaba was unable to comment further. 

Traveller24 has contacted Kenya Airways for clarity on the incident that forced Kenya Airways Boeing flight B788, to return to OR Tambo  shortly after take-off on Tuesday 7 November - but has yet to receive a response.

The flight landed safely, in order to offload the technician who was referred to as "stowed away" in an Aviation Herald report. 

The report confirmed the engineer had been found, with crew quoted saying, "He's here and conscious!".  

Kenya Airways flight forced to return to OR Tambo after maintenance engineer ‘stowed away’ 

Aircraft go through a number of safety and maintenance checks before take-off, in fact technical safety and consistency in standards are crucial as the recent Comair and SAA grounding due to SAAT issues highlighted. 

READ: Comair and SAA grounding: Protocol inadequacies in SA aviation come to light as 5 core concerns in SAAT audit unpacked 

So you can imagine the surprise, when crew aboard Kenya Airways Boeing flight B788 discovered they had a maintenance engineer "stowed away" on board.

Aviation Herald reports the Kenya Airways Boeing 787-8, registration 5Y-KZC had just taken off from Johannesburg on Tuesday, 5 November when the crew was informed "a maintenance engineer should have been left in Johannesburg". 

The plane returned to OR Tambo and eventually made a safe landing, before it taxied to the apron. Crew confirmed the engineer had been found, where exactly on the plane remains unclear, but they are quoted saying, "He's here and conscious!".

The flight was delayed by about an hour, following the incident, before taking off again for Nairobi. 

READ: How safe do you feel flying on SA planes?

Traveller24 has reached out to both Kenya Airways and the South African Civil Aviation Authority and is awaiting a response. 

Aviation expert Vincent Lessing says Kenya Airways contracts in their maintenance support. We wanted to know how possible it was that the ground crew member was forgotten about? 

"Once the aircraft is being loaded and all the ground activities have taken place the engineers ensure the release of the aircraft, after performing mandatory checks that include pre- and post flight inspection.

While it remains unclear where the maintenance engineer was found after the return landing, because of the reference to consciousness, it is suspected he could have been in "one of the aircraft compartments" and not the pressure-controlled cabin. 

"A number of activities take place on the ground to have the aircraft ready for its scheduled departure time. As an example, if a technical item requires an engineer's attention, it will be attended to whilst all other activities continue. Question then is that the proper checks were conducted before push back or the “doors closed” call was made. 

"There was either a rush or loss of situational awareness," says Lessing.   

*Compiled by Selene Brophy

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