Airlink Flight 8911
An Airlink BAe Jetstream 41 identical to the aircraft involved in the incident.
|Date||24 September 2009|
|Summary||Engine failure and pilot error|
|Site||Durban, South Africa
|Injuries (non-fatal)||3 (including 1 on ground)|
|Survivors||2 (2 crew and 1 on ground)|
|Aircraft type||BAe Jetstream 41|
|Flight origin||Durban International Airport|
Airlink Flight 8911 was a positioning flight from Durban International Airport to Pietermaritzburg Airport, South Africa, that crashed into the grounds of Merebank Secondary School, Durban shortly after take-off on 24 September 2009, injuring the three occupants of the aircraft and one on the ground. The captain of the flight subsequently died of his injuries on 7 October 2009. The first on scene was Brian Govindsamy who is a local resident. He allegedly tried to rescue the crew by breaking down the plane door. It is however still not certain how many of the crew he managed to save.
The flight was a positioning flight (ferry flight) from Durban to Pietermaritzburg, carrying no passengers. Three crew members were aboard: captain Allister Freeman, first officer Sonja Bierman and flight attendant Rodelle Oosthuizen.
The aircraft, a BAe Jetstream 41 with registration ZS-NRM, had only flown 50 hours since its last service. The aircraft had been diverted to Durban from Pietermaritzburg the previous evening due to bad weather.
At around 8:00 a.m. local time (06:00 UTC) on 24 September 2009, the flight departed Durban International Airport. Shortly after takeoff, the crew reported loss of engine power and smoke from the rear of the aircraft, and declared an emergency. Witnesses reported the aircraft flying at an unusually low altitude, and that the pilot was attempting to ditch the aircraft in vacant land surrounding Merebank Secondary School approximately 400 metres (440 yd) from the threshold of Runway 24 at Durban International Airport. The school was closed due to the accident day being Heritage Day, a public holiday. The pilot ditched the aircraft on the sports field of the school, avoiding hitting nearby residential properties; the aircraft broke into three pieces on impact.
Rescue workers arrived on the scene shortly after the crash and cut the three crew members out of the wreckage using hydraulic rescue tools. The captain was airlifted to St. Augustine's Hospital at 11:00 a.m. local time (09:00 UTC) in a critical condition; the critically injured first officer and seriously injured flight attendant were taken to other nearby hospitals. A street cleaner on the school's perimeter was struck by the plane and was taken to hospital. The captain died of his injuries on 7 October 2009.
Investigators from the South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) were dispatched to the crash scene; the CAA will conduct an on-site investigation to determine the possible cause of the crash. The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder were retrieved and will be used in the investigation. British Aerospace, the manufacturer of the aircraft, has dispatched a team of technical experts to assist in the investigation should they be required by the CAA.
Although early media reports hinted at an early release of the preliminary report, Airlink have stated that "the investigation is still going to take some time before any form of preliminary findings could be made available".
On 9 October 2009, the CAA issued a press release requesting the public's assistance in finding a bearing cap from one of the engines. The cap, which possibly separated from the engine during takeoff, could not be found at the crash site or at the airport.
On 23 December 2009, the CAA issued the following press release : "In the case of the FADN (Merebank) accident the initial cause appears to be that of an engine failure during take-off which finally resulted in an accident when the human factor involvement resulted in the wrong engine being shut down. This type of engine failure has occurred previously and the cause is known to the manufacturer."
- da Costa, Wendy; Eliseev, Alex (25 September 2009). "Plane had a clean bill of health". IOL. Retrieved 25 September 2009.
- "CAA trying to piece together plane crash". News24. 25 September 2009. Retrieved 25 September 2009.
- "Crash plane declared emergency". IOL. 24 September 2009. Retrieved 24 September 2009.
- "Pilot needs to be commended: witness". IOL. 24 September 2009. Retrieved 24 September 2009.
- "It looked like the plane slid over one man". IOL. 24 September 2009. Retrieved 24 September 2009.
- "Airlink pilot dies". IOL. 7 October 2009. Retrieved 7 October 2009.
- "CAA desperate to recover bearing cap of crashed SA-Airlink plane". SABC. 9 October 2009. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 9 October 2009.
- http://www.caa.co.za/ Archived 17 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine.