Turkish Airlines TK45

Photo: Andre Bonn

Cape Town air scare: Turkish Airlines pilots wrestle with ‘technical fault’

Turkish Airlines’ Flight TK45 encountered a serious technical issue on Thursday evening, forcing the aircraft to make an unscheduled landing at OR Tambo.

Turkish Airlines TK45

Photo: Andre Bonn

Hundreds of passengers leaving Cape Town for Istanbul were left bewildered and anxious after their journey to Europe was curtailed by a fault on-board Turkish Airlines’ Flight TK45. Departing on Thursday evening, the plane was forced to make a landing at OR Tambo International Airport – some four hours after its initial take-off.

Turkish Airlines flight from Cape Town – what went wrong?

It has been revealed by several aviation industry sources that the aircraft encountered difficulty with its landing gear. Shortly after leaving the ground, the pilots realised that they couldn’t retract the mechanism, leaving the front wheel of the plane exposed to the elements and jammed in position.

Why did the pilots circle Robben Island, then head to OR Tambo?

This forced Flight TK45 to make a hasty “Plan B”. It was decided that the flight would enter a holding pattern around Robben Island, and it circled the region for the best part of two hours in order to “burn off” fuel. The option to just dump the oil is potentially hazardous, so the crew was left with no choice but to use up their reserves.

Once the plane had lost the necessary amount of fuel – and gave itself an appropriate landing weight – the journey continued to Johannesburg. After lifting off at 18:00, the Turkish Airlines plane didn’t land at OR Tambo (chosen as a safe destination due to its availability to host more passengers) until after 22:00. Aviation Herald confirmed these details earlier:

“A Turkish Airlines Airbus A330-300, performing flight TK-45 from Cape Town to Istanbul (Turkey), was climbing out of Cape Town’s runway 19 when the crew was unable to retract the landing gear and stopped the climb. The aircraft entered a hold to work the checklists and burn off fuel.

“After about two hours in the hold, the aircraft set course to divert to Johannesburg. It landed safely on Johannesburg’s runway 03R about four hours after departure. Multiple witnesses on the ground in Cape Town reported the aircraft climbed out with the landing gear remaining extended.”

Turkish Airlines scare-in-the-air – emergency crews deployed

Emergency crews were deployed to the runway at OR Tambo as a precaution, but there were no casualties or fatalities from this relatively mild incident. However, the technical fault has caused a travel nightmare for hundreds of people on-board TK45 – with no alternative flights available overnight, the passengers were put up in airport hotels before being placed on a rescheduled itinerary.