South African Airways (SAA) is under investigation after a flight crew miscalculated the weight onboard a cargo flight and nearly stalled the aircraft during takeoff. While automatic safety features onboard saved the day, the close call raised many concerns, including the fact that it took over three weeks for SAA to report the incident to South African civil aviation authorities.
An “Extraordinarily Dangerous” Takeoff On SAA
The incident took place on February 24, 2021. A South African Airways Airbus A340-600 (ZS-SNG) was scheduled to fly from Johannesburg (JNB) to Brussels (BRU) in order to pick up COVID-19 vaccines and other medicine and supplies.
SAA has not operated regularly during the pandemic and as a result, some pilots are out of training. South Africa’s BusinessDay reports the pilots on this flight fell into that category and had to be granted a special waiver by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) to even operate.
For reasons that are still unclear, the takeoff weight was off by 90 tons, which was enough to nearly stall the aircraft during the takeoff. The Airbus A340-600 has safety features in place, however, which kicked in, adding more power and lowering the nose of the plane.
The plane continued to Brussels without incident and returned home safely.
The Aviation Herald claims it spoke to the flight crew of the flight question and they deny it even happened. Rather, they claim there is a “well known” computer error on the A340 which displays an incorrect weight (adds 90 tons) and the aircraft was never in danger.
However, SACAA called the event “extraordinarily dangerous” and is now investigating. SACAA was also not notified of the February 24th event until March 17th.
There’s mystery surrounding this incident, especially considering the actual takeoff weight. Pilots being rusty is not a problem unique to South African Airways, but raises more questions about the beleaguered carrier and why it keeps receiving exceptions and lifelines despite being bankrupt.
image: South African Airways