All 35 passengers and crew aboard an Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATC) flight ‘Ft 119’ from Kigoma to Dar es Salaam yesterday cheated death after the plane crashed on take-off at the lake-side town.
Speaking shortly after the accident, Kigoma Acting Regional Police Commander Kihenya Kihenya, said the plane had apparently failed to take off and instead run into the grass patch off the runway. The incident occurred at 10:15am.
Kihenya said the plane, a DASH 8, Q300 was being flown by Captain Emmannuel Mshana, assisted by Captain Mbwali Masesa and was to fly to Dar es Salaam via Tabora.
He said the plane’s right wing was broken and all its tyres burst.
“All the passengers including the plane crews are safe”, he noted.
Meanwhile, Kigoma airport Manager, Elipidi Tesha, said the cause of the accident was yet to be established.
“We thank God, because all the passengers and crew of the plane are safe,” he said, adding that ATCL management was working on arrangements to ensure that passengers continue with their journey.
Archbishop of the African Inland Church of Tanzania (AICT) Silas Kezakubi, who also doubles as the head of the church’s Tabora diocese, said that he boarded the plane with his wife, Eunice intending to travel to Dar es Salaam.
He said as the plane was taking off from Kigoma airport it suddenly faltered and fell back on the ground just outside the runway.
“As the plane ran aground into the grass area around the runway, passengers knocked into each other in panic,” he said.
Bishop Kezakubi said they were saved by the plane’s crew who helped to calm the confused passengers and direct them out of the plane through the emergency doors.
A Member of Parliament for Kasulu-Rural constituency, Agripinina Buyogela (NCCR-Mageuzi) who was traveling to Dar es Salaam, said the plane went out of control and headed to the bush at high speed, damaging a wing.
Meanwhile the Deputy Minister for Transport, Athuman Mfutakamba said that the passengers had been taken to hotels in Kigoma while alternative transport was being arranged to fly them out of the town.
On the airline’s services, Mfutakamba said ATCL has been given full mandate to decide how the company should operate.
He said that ATCL management was allowed to hire another plane from any company to ensure reliable services to its customers.
“They are free to hire another plane to replace the damaged one…we are waiting for their recommendations on how to improve services”, he said.
ATCL is resumed service early November last year after being grounded for a couple of months.
The company resumed with one of its planes, a Bombadier Dash 8 Q300 that was undergoing maintenance in South Africa.
In 2009, the government rescued the national flag carrier from financial doldrums with the disbursement of a second bailout package to the tune of 4.5bn/-.
The firm has experienced a series of problems since its marriage with “strategic investor” South African Airline (SAA) that collapsed in 2006.
Other problems experienced include the last December’s decision by the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) to revoke the new-look airline’s Air Operating Certificate over faulty documentation.
Established after the collapse of East African Community in 1977 with 11 aircraft, Air Tanzania remained a key player in the domestic air travel business and in regional destinations until in recent years when it suffered persistent financial and administrative problems, leading to frequent suspension of flights.