7 Nov 2007. It's been a busy week for Cape Town Airport's runways - first an SAA flight taxis off the runway, now today a Nationwide plane (flight CE 723, aircraft registration ZS-OEZ) loses its engine while taking off (obviously a very serious matter), but lands safely. Well done to the pilot in command (Trevor Arnold) and first officer (Daniel Perry) - you should be very proud of yourselves ( this could easily have ended tragically if it were not for your superior skills).
While this Nationwide flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg was taking off at 1550, the number two engine (the right engine, a Pratt and Whitney JT8D engine) literally exploded off the wing (the engine fell off when the plane was about 50m high) scattering debris on the runway. It may be worthwhile repeating part of the last sentence - "an engine EXPLODED OFF the wing..." (good to see the shear bolts were working properly!). Add to that the fact that a Boeing 737-200 uses MAX thrust for takeoff in wet weather (there was a light rain in Cape Town), and you can imagine what the pilots had to deal with when the engine came loose.
"I heard this huge bang, and he said (a passenger next to the window), that's our engine that's just fallen off. I couldn't believe it. He had to repeat it to me. The plane started to shake a bit, but what was amazing was the staff and passengers: everybody was so calm. There was no hysteria, no nothing, it was amazing. The guy next to me seemed to know something about planes. He said, don't worry: the plane will go with one engine. So I thought, that's okay." The aircraft then made a wide turn while the cabin staff took the passengers through the emergency procedures, getting them to take off their shoes and practice bending down. "But when we landed it was a soft landing, like you would think there was nothing wrong with the plane." (hats off to the crew again).
After take-off traffic controllers immediately instructed Charlie Victor (the ground crew) to clear up the rubble on the runway, telling them that they had an emergency and that the Nationwide plane had to return. Tower then spoke to Nationwide who told them they have an emergency - their number two engine has partially disintegrated and they have lost hydraulics (happily the landing gear could not be lifted on take off so hydraulics were not required to get them down). The tower said it was not a partially disintegration - the whole engine was lying on the runway; and then instructed the Nationwide flight to maintain 3000 ft on one engine and vectored them to fly to Robben Island (Romeo India Victor).
The Nationwide pilot said that on take off he first saw black smoke which turned into grey smoke and then the motor exploded and disintegrated and parted from the aircraft. This happened just short of the cross runway 16/34 which is about 70 percent of the total runway length. The pilot could not have stopped the plane before the end of the runway but had enough speed at that stage for the take off.
After the engine fell off, the plane continued its climb-out after False Bay. At 1610 ground crew said that that runway 01 was ready for an emergency landing and the Nationwide plane was brought in from Cape Point on a gradual descent on instruments as the cloud base was very low.
The plane made a very good approach and a perfect landing without brakes at 1628 (none of the passengers on board were hurt). The plane came to a standstill parked on the cross runway 34 out of the way of the main runway 01/19. Steps and buses were driven out to the plane and passengers were disembarked in the normal fashion.
The plane was a Boeing 737-200 ADV (according to our records Nationwide operates 11 of them).
At 16:58 the runway was reopened after ground crew had removed the small particles in case they got sucked into jet engines. At 1715pm the first aircraft took off after the incident. Nationwide is going to have a hell of a job on their hands convincing the public that their planes are well maintained (and this may foster a climate of avoidance of low cost carriers). The incident does not necessarily mean bad maintenance but there is that possibility.
It has become clear that Cape Town needs a second ILS main runway. If that had been the case no flights would have been diverted in either incident.
South Africa's Civil Aviation Authority will be investigating the incident. The controlling body sent a team from Johannesburg to Cape Town and they arrived at 1930 to begin investigating.
Nationwide airline released the following press release on the 8th November 2007 at 1430:
"On Wednesday 7th November, our flight CE723 departed from Cape Town at 1550. During the take off roll, as the nose wheel lifted from the ground (rotation), the Captain heard a loud noise immediately followed by a yaw of the aircraft (sideways slippage) to the right. On confirmation of the flight-deck instrumentation, it was apparent that the number two engine (on the right side) had failed. Simultaneously it was observed by some passengers onboard as well as people at the airport that the engine had separated and detached from the wing.
The Captain applied emergency procedures prescribed for an engine failure and continued the climb out from the airfield. An emergency was declared and the aircraft was cleared to return and perform an emergency landing. The cabin crew were briefed and the passengers were prepared for the landing.
The aircraft landed without further incident. There were no injuries sustained by anyone on board or on the ground.
It has been determined that during the take off roll an object which is yet to be defined was ingested into the engine which caused a catastrophic engine failure. The subsequent forces experienced by the engine supporting structure caused this to fail and for the number two engine to detach from the wing. The engine-to-wing supporting structure is designed to release the engine when extreme forces are applied to prevent any structural damage to the wing that may impair the aircrafts ability to fly.
We are currently working with authorities and investigators to establish what exactly the unidentified object was.
The engine on this particular aircraft was fitted in March 2005 after a major overhaul by an approved Federal Aviation Authority Facility in the USA and has since accumulated 3,806 hours. These engines typically achieve 10,000 hrs between major overhauls.
The Boeing B737 aircraft has an excellent safety record. Globally, there are over 5,000 of these aircraft in daily service with a departure occurring every 9 seconds of every day.
The benchmark in aviation for safety standards is measurement against the International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit (IOSA). Nationwide Airlines underwent this audit and was found to be in conformity. As a result, Nationwide Airlines is one of the few airlines in Africa to reside on the IOSA Register.
The airline industry is the most regulated industry in the world in terms of safety, training and aircraft maintenance. In no other profession are skilled individuals such as pilots required to undergo testing and to demonstrate their proficiency on such a regular basis. Training encompasses a wide variety of subjects and scenarios that hopefully flight crew members will never be called upon to exercise in the operational environment. Yesterday this training paid off – the skills of the crew were called upon and procedures were carried out in a text-book fashion.
The pilots and cabin crew of flight 723 must be complimented for their superb display of professionalism and airmanship and for a job well done."
"Boeing is working with the South African investigating authority to determine the cause of this incident. Boeing stands ready to support Nationwide and help get their airplanes back into service."' said Peter Conte (Boeing's spokesman)
Immediate visual inspections of all Boeing 737-200 aircraft's engine-mountings was ordered by the Civil Aviation Authority immediatley after the incident (for Nationwide and its competitors). Airlines were instructed to carry out a sequence of checks on the Pratt Whitney JT8D-powered planes, including checking all the clamps and struts used to mount the engines to the aircraft's wings. This action grounded thirty aircraft across South Africa.
The Boeing 737-200 involved (ZS-OEZ) flew its first flight on the 9th Jan 1981, whereafter it served Lufthansa from the 30th Jan 1981 to the 2nd Jun 1992 (as D-ABFH), and then with Croatia Airlines (as RC-CTC and 9A-CTC) before joining Nationwide Airline on the 1st Aug 1999.