Six people, including the pilot and co-pilot, narrowly avoided a gruesome end on Mondaywhen chief pilot Tatu Kegakilwe crash-landed Westair’s twin Engine Reims F406 aircraft at Eros Airport.
The aircraft (Registration V5-WAY) that was on its way from Ongava is operated by West Air Aviation on behalf of Wilderness Air and had to make an emergency landing after the nose wheel of the aircraft malfunctioned and failed to descend to its proper position for landing.
Initially the plane was scheduled to land at Hosea Kutako International Airport, but the pilots diverted to Eros after realising that the landing gear was failing to extend. Accordingly, they then informed the air traffic controller of their decision to rather land at Eros, which seemed the safer option.
Speaking to New Era yesterday, Westair chairperson and managing director Wolfgang Grellmann only had praise for the two pilots, who landed the plane safely and saved the lives of the four passengers.
Grellmann, who has 50 years of aviation experience, said an immediate inspection was initiated by the Directorate of Aircraft Accident Investigations (DAAI) and the damaged plane was removed from the runway after all four passengers and crew walked away without injury.
Grellmann said the aircraft had clocked more than 60 000 flying hours and this was the first time he has witnessed the nose gear failing on such a model.
Air traffic controllers at Eros Airport praised the pilots yesterday for an exceptional emergency landing, as the pilots had also prevented the aircraft from bursting into flames – which is something, they said, that cannot easily be practised in aircraft simulators.
“The landing of the pilot was textbook stuff. Tremendously cool and calm and calculated and absolute brilliant,” Grellmann agreed.
According to him, all passengers were visibly in shock but relieved to survive and thanked the pilots profusely for the safe landing, as they at some stage expected the worst.
He said the plane screeched to a halt after using up most of the runway and the fire brigade and medical services rushed to the plane, which had just made a onein- a-million landings, due to the sheer aptitude of chief pilot Tatu Kegakilwe and co-pilot Nick Mann, who saved the lives of four passengers and their own.
Airport staff, fire-fighters, medical personnel and spectators stood in awe yesterday at 15h29 pm at the Eros Airport when the pilot in command of the crippled twin-engine, put the airplane down in such spectacular fashion on the runway before emerging from the plane with his passengers unscathed.