South African Airways (SAA) has apologised after one of its aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing back into Accra International Airport on Sunday evening. Onboard the aircraft was Grammy-nominated R&B star Deborah Cox who documented the unfolding emergency situation via her Instagram story.
The SAA operated Airbus A330 departed Johannesburg at around 6.30pm and landed into Accra as scheduled around five hours later. There, flight SA209 was due to drop off and pick up passengers before continuing its journey to Washington D.C. Unfortunately, things didn’t get off to a good start when a catering truck collided with one of the aircraft’s doors.
Passengers sat on the plane for around three hours while the damage was fixed and after being inspected, the aircraft was given the green light to continue. That’s not quite how the story ended, however…
Shortly after takeoff the pilots were forced to declare an emergency and requested an immediate return to the airport. There are reports that smoke filled the flight deck, although in a written statement SAA simply described the issue as a “technical problem” and strenuously denied social media reports that there had been a fire in the cockpit.
@flysaa I hope y’all do right by @Deborah_Cox and all of the crew and passengers. The trauma of an in flight fire is traumatic enough… then to be told to -BRACE GET YOUR HEADS DOWN⁉️She’s an American treasure we expect to get our vocalist back in one peace #SouthAfricanairways pic.twitter.com/OgNT0gmHmZ
— that’s a good look (@BigMike825) August 5, 2019
In any event, SAA says there’s no evidence to connect the damaged aircraft door and the second ‘technical problem’ – it just looks like everyone was really unlucky and two separate unconnected events took place.
Deborah Cox, who also played the lead role in Broadway hit musical The Bodyguard was on the plane after attending events in Ghana. She documented the landing on her Instagram story, including the moment that cabin crew shouted at passengers to “BRACE, BRACE, keep your heads down”. Presumably, because the aircraft was landing heavy.
Cox says her life flashed before her eyes, although SAA maintains that crew were simply following standard operating procedures.
None of the 223 passengers and crew on board flight SA209 was injured according to the airline and passengers were put up in hotels overnight while a replacement aircraft was sourced. The flight eventually made it to Washington D.C. on Tuesday afternoon.
“SAA is grateful that our crew followed every safety procedure and did not discount anything,” the airline said of its pilots and cabin crew.
The aircraft involved in the incident remains on the ground in Accra where technicians are trying to establish the cause of the problem.