One student pilot escaped death narrowly on Monday when the light aircraft he was flying crash-landed at Malindi International Airport after its front wheel went off.
The student at the Kenya School of Flying domiciled at the airport was forced to remain air-borne for more than two-hours for the fuel to be exhausted before he was allowed to land at the airport, the KAA Airport Manager, Mohamed Karama told journalists.
Karama said the front wheel of the aircraft, a Cesna 152, was discovered to be missing immediately after take-off forcing air control operators to alert the student pilot to remain airborne till instructed to land.
He was not however told that the wheel had gone off the aircraft but was instructed to remain airborne since the tyre had a puncture.
The Manager said the matter was treated as a full emergency and all security stakeholders, the Kenya Red Cross, the airport fire brigade and the neighbouring Tawfiq Hospital were alerted and responded immediately.
“The aircraft had just been fueled to fly for three hours before the student was allowed to fly solo,” he said adding, “When we discovered that its front wheel had gone off, we instructed him to remain airborne so all the fuel could be exhausted.”
He said allowing the plane to land with a full fuel tank would have made it to catch fire since the fuel used to fly light aircraft, Afgas, is more flammable than petrol.
He said that all security measures were put in place to prevent loss of life and minimize damage to the aircraft.
Karama however, said the aircraft, which landed on the main runway, was extensively damaged but the student pilot escaped unhurt. The runway, he said, had some scratches but it was not damaged.
“He unbuckled and came out of the aircraft unhurt but evidently traumatized. We then had him and his instructor rushed to hospital for trauma counselling since the instructor, though he was on the ground, had been disturbed by the incident,” Mr. Karama added.
However, journalists were not allowed to access the scene of the incident, but Karama said investigations had been launched to establish the actual cause of the incident.
Karama lauded the security stakeholders for their quick response, saying it showed there was unity among them.
Efforts to get a comment from the management of the school of flying were futile as the officer in charge declined to talk to journalists.
By Emmanuel Masha