We could smell tyres burning when plane skidded off runway — passenger

Ethiopian Airlines' Boeing 737-800 ET-ATV suffered a runway excursion Thursday morning after landing at Entebbe International Airport, affecting inbound flights between the incident at 12am to 10am.

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INCIDENT | The Ethiopian Airline plane that overshot the runway and skidded into the grass during landing at Entebbe International Airport was “unstable” as soon as the pilot announced landing, a passenger has said, describing their ordeal of smelling burning tyres and fearing for worst.

Doreen Muhereza said the pilot and the crew were deathly silent throughout the landing episode that left many passengers shook up and only spoke after it was all “done.”

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Ethiopian Airlines’ Boeing 737-800 ET-ATV suffered a runway excursion Thursday morning after landing at Entebbe International Airport, affecting inbound flights between the incident at 12am to 10am.

The flight ET338 from Addis Ababa had 139 onboard, including the crew, but no injuries were reported. All passengers were disembarked safely after the incident, the airline and Uganda Civil Aviation Authority said.

The incident left passengers Patrick and Doreen Muhereza saying they have “never been so confident about God’s protection and call on our lives like we are today.”

In a Facebook post, Doreen said that soon after the pilot had announced the start of landing, they noticed that the plane was quite unstable but dismissed it, thinking it was just the winds.

“Only to meet a worse bumpy experience on ground. We had missed the runway and we were now on the grass. We could smell the tyres burning. It was definitely not alright,” Doreen said.

“The cabin crew was silent and so was our pilot. Our window seat gave us a clear view of the outside, we had narrowly survived crashing into the perimeter wall that separated us from the water.”

Works and Transport minister Monicah Ntege told the media later that a preliminary report had indicated that the incident was caused by air pocket, dismissing reports of crash-landing.

“According to the pilot, as they were landing, they met [with] what to me I would refer to as air pocket. They missed the touchline and landed a little bit off,” the minister said.

By touch line, runways have ‘threshold point’ after which an aircraft should land. Sometimes, due to poor visibility, the pilot will not able to see the threshold point (visual approach). So, the plane lands much after the threshold point, due to which it will have less stopping distance.

If sufficient or the required braking is not applied, the aircraft will not stop up to the end of the runway, causing runway overshoot.

A pilot can also miss the threshold point due to air pocket or turbulence on landing. Airplane passengers feel turbulence when updrafts and downdrafts buffet the plane’s body and wings sometimes both at the same time from different directions.

‘Waiting for communication’

Doreen described the moment as one during which passengers were eagerly waiting for some sort of communication from the crew about what was going on “but when they spoke, they only welcomed us to Entebbe International Airport.”

“The pilot finally spoke, giving a very brief communication of what we already knew and something that sounded like an apology (still not sure if it was).

“We stayed on board for 30 or more minutes before the buses came to fetch us. We got off and walked through the swampy area and hopped onto the buses which took us to the arrival section at the airport.”

Patrick sounded livid with the airline, demanding an explanation from Ethiopian Airline. In a tweet, he said; “Ethiopian Airlines, we deserve an explanation, for the poor landing at Entebbe and near death experience you just put through. It’s been two hours and no official communication.”

The airline responded to the tweet with a statement of the incident.

Minister Ntege said she would set up a probe team to establish the cause of the accident and submit a comprehensive report.

Doreen descreibed the incident as traumatizing for many “but right there, I realised how much God loves us.”

It could have been worse, she said.

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