Thursday, 17 July 2014


Miyanda Siamoongwa, a Zambian national who was headed to Hong Kong after the death of a relative says he has never been as scared as he was during the sudden turbulence that hit Flight SA 286 on Wednesday.

Siamoongwa told News24 Travel in an email that half-way through the 14 hour flight from Johannesburg the plane was hit by “big turbulence that came out of nowhere".

“The Airbus A340-300 is an exceedingly large aircraft, but you would not have guessed that, from the way it was tossed about - like a toy,” said Siamoongwa.

“At some point, it dropped like a stone, before it gained some stability."

It was at this point that Siamoongwa watched "an infant literally fly out of the bassinet and being caught by her mother" as she was about to hit the floor.

“The overhead compartments were severely damaged as carry-on luggage crashed while the plane was tossed about."

According to Siamoongwa a passenger who did not have his safety belt on was severely injured when his head hit the cabin roof, forming a gaping hole.
Following the turbulence, Siamoongwa detailed a ghastly scene in which the toilets were broken and passengers with serious neck and spinal injuries were confined to their seats.

“The cabin crew were looking pretty shaken and I overheard a supervisor tell an injured guy in front of me that, in all her years of flying, she's not encountered turbulence on this scale,” he said.

“The Captain addressed us and apologised, admitting it was not possible for him to determine just how severe that spot of turbulence was."

Siamoongwa said the captain also announced the flight had been declared an emergency and had been given priority landing due to the extensive damage to the aircraft and injuries to passengers.

On landing “a number of fire engines and ambulances with blazing sirens, and a battalion of medical personnel met the aircraft. A number of make shift beds had already been made 50 meters from the aircraft. “

South African Airways (SAA) has not confirmed any flight delays as yet but said of the 20 passengers who were injured (17 passengers and 3 crew members); two were seriously injured, with the remaining 18 suffering minor injuries.

"All injured passengers and crew have received the necessary medical attention. The seriously injured were taken to the Prince Margaret Hospital and the North Lantau Hospital in Hong Kong, " SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali said.

The airline also confirmed only two South Africans on board had been admitted to hospital and that they have since been discharged.

Aviation expert Vincent Lessing told News24 Travel from Siamoongwa’s account "Flight SA 286 seems to have experienced a severe case of Clear-Air Turbulence (CAT)".

“On board weather Doppler radar systems are able to identify weather patterns up to 50 nautical miles and are colour-coded according to severity of clouds,” said Lessing.

“CAT is usually impossible to detect with the naked eye and very difficult to detect with conventional radar, as a result it is even more difficult for aircraft pilots to avoid.”

Lessing said Climate Change research indicates an increase of CAT could be due to global warming as high levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide increases susceptibility at jet stream altitude level.

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