Ethiopian Airliner Diverts, Mired At Arusha Airport

Saturday, December 21, 2013
By George Hatcher

On December 18, Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 767-383ER #ET-AQW en route from Addis Ababa to Zanzibar-Kisauni Airport diverted to Arusha Airport. On landing on the too short runway, the plane’s wheels departed the pavement and became mired in soft ground.

No one was injured in the landing.

There is a rumor that the pilots diverted from the Zanzibar airport because they were unable to land there because there was a vehicle on the runway with a flat tire. The plane was nearly out of fuel and the best/closest option was Arusha. Passengers waited aboard as air stairs were driven from Kilimanjaro airport to Arusha—time consuming, but stairs eliminate the likelihood of injury by emergency evacuation on slides.

The diversion to Arusha is under inquiry; they apparently landed without clearance and once they were down, asked where they were. It is unknown if, even under the most favorable conditions (i.e., empty with experts at the helm), the plane can take from the short runway. It remains to be seen how the crew will fare for this decision, but some credit should be given for landing a 767 safely onto a 4500′ runway with zero casualties. Some armchair pilots are guessing that the pilots mistook Arusha for Kilimanjaro airport, mistaking Mount Meru for Kilimanjaro.

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