Passengers on board FlySafair flight FA103 were terrified when they had to make an emergency landing in Johannesburg after the plane lost cabin pressure, the second incident of this type involving the same plane in just a couple of days.
Imagine you are sitting on a plane when the pilot suddenly yells out the words, “Rapid descent, rapid descent,” moments before all the lights go out. A passenger on flight FA103 described the experience on the social media, saying just how terrified they all were at the time.
FlySafair flight FA103 was on its way from Johannesburg to the city of Cape Town on Sunday evening, where no doubt many of the passengers on board were looking forward to a pleasant beach vacation, when suddenly the plane’s cabin lost cabin pressure. The pilot was forced to give up the journey, apparently going into a nosedive to make an emergency landing at the OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg.
— #mooshdigital (@mooshdigital) January 25, 2016
Traveller24 says in a report that the exact same plane had lost cabin pressure previously on January 22, just two days before the current incident with flight FA103.
FlySafair made an apology to the passengers in a statement, giving an overview of the events which occurred during the flight.
“As the aircraft reached approximately 32,000 feet‚ Captain Lawrence Banda and First officer Charles Peck noted that the air pressure wasn’t stabilizing as it should and that the aircraft was experiencing a very gradual loss of pressure.”
“The team decided to act cautiously and began safety procedures and a return to Johannesburg. These procedures included reducing speed‚ lowering altitude, and releasing the passenger oxygen masks manually as a precautionary measure.”
As reported by MyBroadband, the statement continued by saying Captain Banda and his crew landed safely at OR Tambo at just after 21:30, where the FlySafair ground teams met the shaken up passengers.
Reportedly, once the passengers were safely in the terminal building, they were greeted by staff, who offered them full refunds and the option of a later flight or help with alternative arrangements as required.
Speaking of the previous incident with loss of cabin pressure, FlySafair CEO Elmar Conradie confirmed it was the same plane involved in the January 22 incident, but said the team had received “positive findings” during a test flight on Saturday morning and that everything was “working the way it should” for the latest flight. He added that his crew would never fly a plane unless it was safe to do so.
“The pilot chose to follow our standard operating procedure and made the right call to return the plane to ensure the safety of our passengers – he could have ignored it the issue, but that would have been the terrible and the wrong decision.”
While the statement from FlySafair sounds professional and reassuring, comments on the social media show just how terrified the passengers were when the plane lost cabin pressure.
One passenger Meli Razavi wrote on Facebook, “I had the most terrifying experience last night while flying to Cape Town from Johannesburg with Safair.”
The Facebook post went on to say the lack of communication and unprofessional manner in which the plane crew handled the situation after the plane lost cabin pressure left passengers speechless and horrified.
“The pilot just announced ‘rapid descent, rapid descent,’ the lights went off, and oxygen masks dropped. There was no further communication and the plane was going down.”
According to that post, the oxygen masks were not working, and reportedly some were not even connected properly, causing the oxygen masks to fall into passengers’ laps.
The Facebook user went on to explain how people were “saying their last words, praying to whatever they believed in, and most passengers were holding each other’s hands. Some were kissing, and some were SMSing their loved ones and saying their goodbyes.”
The social media member said she had a panic attack and that there was no help. Only five minutes later, the pilot announced that FlySafair flight FA103 was going to make an emergency landing in Johannesburg. She said they are glad that everyone survived the experience and that she would be getting on another plane to Cape Town, but definitely not through FlySafair.
Rodney Kumar, another passenger on the flight who lives in Cape Town, said that the nosedive of the plane was so severe he thought his left ear would explode.
“The lights in the cabin went off completely. You could feel the descent and that the plane went in a nosedive, it was so severe it felt like my left-ear felt like was about to explode.”
— Times LIVE (@TimesLIVE) January 25, 2016
Another Facebook poster, Alice Cardarelli, mentioned on Twitter that there was smoke or steam in the cabin at the time of the incident. It turns out that the oxygen masks were reportedly actually working, and the steam came from the oxygen masks, but no one was reassured by the crew of the plane at the time of the incident. Cardarelli said that the whole thing had been handled badly.
— Alice Cardarelli (@AliceCardarelli) January 25, 2016