KIGALI - Details have emerged that the Rwandair aircraft that crashed into the VIP lounge on Thursday at Kigali International Airport, killing one passenger had made an emergency landing at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, a day earlier on Wednesday.
The wet-leased aircraft from the Nairobi-based Jetlink Express reported technical failures before it crashed at Kigali International Airport on Thursday.
Nairobi emergency landing
It’s now understood from official position that before the emergency landing at Jomo Kenyatta airport, the pilot experienced technical difficulties related to the failure of the plane’s generators.
“But this time, the aircraft landed safely,” revealed Rwandair’s CEO, Gerald Zirimwabagabo, during a press conference at the Ministry of Infrastructure in Kacyiru yesterday.
Before taking off from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, technicians had reported that the Jetlink Air Canadair CRJ-100 with three generators was to fly with only two generators that power the engines since one had broken down.
Minutes after taking off from Nairobi to operate a flight to Kigali another generator broke down and the pilot immediately made an emergency landing back to JKIA.
According to Zirimwabagabo, the operation’s manual of aircraft with registration 5Y-JLD indicates that it could fly with only two generators since the third one is for emergency.
But after the Nairobi hitch, the plane was serviced and managed to travel to Kigali.
He said the same aircraft had been fully serviced on Tuesday, a day before the emergency landing in Nairobi and had gone through 3000-hour check.
In a new twist, the Rwandair’s Chief Operations Officer, Jack Ekl who is a highly experienced pilot said that immediately after the plane crash, the Chief Pilot was evacuated and said that the aircraft’s throttle lever for controlling the speed had failed.
A throttle lever pivoted by a pilot of an aircraft may include a guidance device that is integral with the lever and capable of interacting with first and second guide tracks.
The ill-fated plane was operating a Kigali-Entebbe route with the flight number WB-205 and had fifteen people on board. Upon take off, it turned to make an emergency landing but instead crash landed.
Two of the injured passengers on board are still in hospital.
The Minister of Infrastructure Eng. Linda Bihire yesterday said conditions of those admitted were not worrying.
Despite several reports, officials emphasized that the exact cause of the accident is not yet known but a team of investigators composed of Rwanda and Kenyan Civil Aviation Authorities had started investigating.
The Director General of Rwanda Civil Aviation, Richard Masozera named the Chief Investigator as Bigizi Mvumi.
Hours after the accident, the Rwandair suspended its partnership with JetLink until “all issues have been taken care of.”
“We want to check the conditions of their aircrafts before we resume working with them,” Zirimwabagabo added.
He said that the suspension of JetLink operations will affect their clients and that the Rwandair is trying to ensure all their clients reach to their final destination in time.
“We cannot continue at this stage with the aircrafts that give an impression to our clients that they are not safe; but I do not mean that JetLink planes are substandard, this was an accident,” Zirimwabagabo explained.
With the suspension of JetLink’s two aircrafts, Rwandair now remains with one plane. “This will obviously affect us but a solution will be availed in the quickest time possible,” Zirimwabagabo assured the clients.
Thursday’s crash comes a few years after another runway incursion at Kigali International Airport.
On June 1 2004, an Antanov 32 owned by Sun Air (9XR-SN), reportedly suffered some problems with the left main undercarriage after takeoff from Beni (DR Congo). The airplane was headed for Goma, but diverted to Kigali for an emergency landing.