The Flysafair incident comes against the backdrop of Comair having been grounded for five days a few weeks ago. (Pic: Flysafair)
FlySafair has confirmed that it had to divert a flight that was headed from East London to Cape Town – making an unscheduled stop in Gqeberha – to address a possible safety concern on Wednesday.
Flight FA143 resumed its flight when it was found the component was working and the safety warning had been a false alarm – a so-called “indication error”.
“The Boeing 737-400 aircraft departed East London on time at 15:25. Shortly after take-off the cockpit crew were alerted to an indication that there may be a fault with a minor component on one of the wings. In the interest of safety, the crew elected to divert to Gqeberha to review the issue. The aircraft performed a normal landing in Gqeberha at about 16:20,” said Flysafair spokesperson Kirby Gordon.
“Once on the ground, the crew reset the sensors and inspected and tested the component in question. It was found that there was actually no issue with the component and that the crew had received what is referred to as an indication error.”
Gordon adds that all aircraft equipment is fitted with highly sensitive monitoring devices and sometimes they do offer false alerts.
“What’s important is that we never ignore them and always act in the interest of safety,” said Gordon.
A passenger on the flight said on social media that the “leading edge wing slat on the right-hand side would not retract” and that a “high-speed landing” was going to be attempted in Gqeberha. After one missed approach, a normal landing was managed and engineers ran some tests and ensured everything was working fine.
After refuelling, the plane continued on to Cape Town where it landed safely.
Aviation expert Guy Leitch said “a simple mechanical fault” can occur if, for example, a bit of dirt gets into the indicator switch or the switch for some reason becomes “sticky”.
“On an aircraft you need indicators to show that the flaps are in the right position. This kind of occurrence is a relatively common and not a threat. The pilots are trained to handle this kind of situation,” said Leitch.
The Flysafair incident comes against the backdrop of Comair having been grounded for five days a few weeks ago after what the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) called “a series of incidents”. Comair operates kulula.com and has a licence agreement with British Airways to operate local flights.