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Pamela Shumba Bulawayo Bureau
PASSENGERS on board an Air Zimbabwe plane got a mid-air scare when the aircraft hit birds on Friday evening, resulting in sparks coming from the engine.
The aircraft that was flying from Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport in Bulawayo landed safely at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport.
Passengers, who included Cabinet ministers, deputy ministers and executives coming from the just ended Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) commended the crew for staying calm and being in control of the situation until they landed safely in Harare.
Deputy Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Vangelis Haritatos was one of the passengers.
Narrating the incident on Facebook, he said the incident occurred as they took off from Bulawayo.
“As our plane took off from Bulawayo tonight, we experienced bird strikes to the left engine which caused a bit of a fireworks show,” he said.
“We were all visibly shaken as blowing sounds and sparks came from the affected engine on impact, but the pilot, Captain Chiwara and his crew were true professionals.”
Deputy Minister Haritatos said the pilot waited a few minutes before announcing what had transpired.
“He announced to us that we had just hit several birds and this is known as a bird strike which is something that does indeed happen, but that he had assessed the situation and the plane was safe and that we would continue our journey back to Harare.
“He reassured passengers that they were in safe hands. On successful landing, the ‘entire plane’ applauded the captain and his crew.”
Deputy Minister Haritatos expressed gratitude to the captain.
“I could not resist but to tell the air hostess, as we walked off the plane, that I was grateful to Captain Chiwara.”
In an interview yesterday, Air Zimbabwe corporate affairs manager Mr Tafadzwa Mazonde, who was one of the passengers, confirmed the incident, saying bird strikes were common.
“Bird strikes are common because our planes fly in the birds’ territory,” he said.
“Upon impact, there were some disturbances in the engine, but the crew assessed the situation and decided that it was safe to continue with the journey.
“Physical inspections were done upon arrival in Harare and it was established that the damage did not compromise the fitness of the aircraft and the safety of the passengers. The same plane is flying as we speak.”
Mr Mazonde said Air Zimbabwe has confidence in its pilots who go for refresher courses every six months to prepare them for any eventualities.