DEADLY TAKEOFF

Scare as plane gets stuck in pothole during takeoff in Lamu

All passengers had to disembark to enable for the plane to be dug out of the pit using shovels.

In Summary
  • The plane's left wheels got stuck in one of the many massive potholes on the runway.
  • Calls to repair and expand the airport from tourism stakeholders and other players have proved futile over the years.

There was a plane scare among passengers at the Manda Airport in Lamu after a Nairobi-bound Fly540 plane got stuck in a huge pothole, seconds after it commenced takeoff from the major runway at the airport on Sunday afternoon.

All the 36 passengers aboard had to disembark before the plane's left tyre was dug out of the pit using shovels by engineers and airport staff.

The plane was later pushed out and parked at a safer location on the runway from where it was finally able to take off safely after a 24-minute delay. A series of checks were made to ensure the ‘hitch’ hadn’t created any other issue that could interfere with the flight.

Apart from the fear and tension caused among passengers and staff at the airport, no one was hurt during the incident.

Omar Mohamed, a passenger, said the plane got stuck in the hole just as it was about to take off, forcing the pilot to descend and quickly switch off the engine.

“Everything was fine until the plane started to lift in readiness to fly. The tyres on the left side were stuck inside a huge hole on the runway. The pilot acted fast and went back down and switched off the engine. It was a scary moment. We were ordered to come down until it was pulled out at around 1pm,”he said.

A Fly540 worker accused the Kenya Airports Authority of refusing to repair the runway.

“We have raised the issue of the potholes with KAA so many times it now sounds like a broken record. I can say they have refused because no effort has been made whatsoever to do anything. The situation of the runway as it is, is extremely dangerous for flying," the worker, who sought anonymity, said.

The Manda Airport runway has many potholes that continue to pose a danger to flying especially during takeoff and landing.

Efforts to reach the airport manager Dominic Ngigi for comments were futile as he did not pick calls nor reply to texts.

Tourist stakeholders in Lamu County have numerously called for the rebuilding and expansion of the airport to be able to deal with the high number of tourists and visitors flocking the region.

The small airport has now found itself overwhelmed with the increased number of carriers plying the region with concerns being raised over the traffic.

In 2016, low-cost carrier Jambojet suspended flights to Lamu citing delays in completion of expansion works at the airport.