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British Airways A380 Superjumbo Makes Emergency Landing in South Africa After ‘Burning Smell Through Whole Cabin’ Made Crew Feel Dizzy

British Airways A380 Superjumbo Makes Emergency Landing in South Africa After ‘Burning Smell Through Whole Cabin’ Made Crew Feel Dizzy

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A British Airways Airbus A380 superjumbo made a ‘precautionary’ emergency landing in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Wednesday night after a ‘burning smell’ wafted through the cabin and reportedly made some of the crew dizzy and nauseous.

The overnight flight from South Africa’s financial capital to London Heathrow turned back just 45 minutes after takeoff and made a priority return to Johannesburg, where it was swarmed by airport fire trucks after landing ‘heavy’ because there was so much fuel still onboard.

The nine-year-old superjumbo was then stuck on the runway for another 40 minutes while airport officials checked the plane over before it was towed back to the gate, and the passengers were allowed to disembark.

Some of the passengers onboard British Airways flight BA56 said that the crew told them that technical issues with the plane’s hydraulics had necessitated the return to Johannesburg.

The Aviation Herald, however, reports that the aircraft suffered a ‘fume event’ in which potentially toxic fumes enter the cockpit and passenger cabin. The aircraft had suffered a fuel leak approximately a week before this incident.

Fume events can occur when oil or fuel vaporises and is sucked into the plane’s air conditioning system through the ‘bleed air’ system that draws air from the outside through the plane’s engines.

Harry Graham, a passenger onboard the flight, described the incident as a “horribly scary situation”, which wasn’t helped by a lack of communication from the airline. Another passenger, Lisa Edmunds, said the diversion had been a “frightening ordeal” and that BA had given mixed messages about what was happening.

The Aviation Herald reported that some of the crew were transported to a local hospital for assessment following the incident.

A spokesperson for British Airways said that the decision to return to Johannesburg was purely precautionary and that the aircraft landed normally.

“Our pilots returned to Johannesburg as a precaution due to a minor technical issue, and the aircraft landed normally,” the airline told us in a statement. “We have apologised to our customers for the disruption to their journey and our teams worked hard to get everyone on their way as planned.”

The aircraft involved in Wednesday night’s ‘precautionary’ landing (registration: G-XLEH) was the last to return to service from pandemic-era deep storage. The plane had been parked in Madrid for the duration of the pandemic until it was sent to Manila for heavy maintenance last August.

The plane is already back in service and is operating flights between London and Johannesburg.

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