Friday 28 July 2017

Airline drill sparks crash alert

Officials said a Boeing 767 arriving from London was involved in an accident at Harare's airport
Officials said a Boeing 767 arriving from London was involved in an accident at Harare's airport

Reports of a crash involving a Boeing jet from London led to worried calls to airlines - only for the incident to be later declared a practice drill.

Aviation officials told the media that a Boeing 767 travelling from London had been involved in an accident at Harare airport in Zimbabwe. But it later transpired that the Zimbabwe Civil Aviation Authority was merely testing its emergency procedures.

Before then, anxious people called the UK offices of Air Zimbabwe, which operates twice-a-week services between Gatwick airport and Harare.

David Mwenga, the Air Zimbabwe Europe and USA general manager said: "I am concerned that this incident led to many, many calls to us. People were frightened. No actual plane was involved, but there was a scenario involving a Boeing 767 plane that had been hijacked and forced down at Harare airport."

David Chawota, head of the Zimbabwe Civil Aviation Authority, said accident information was given out to make the drill realistic.

He went on: "Telling the media was part of the exercise. We wanted to see how the media would react. In the event, the drill was a success because all our systems worked perfectly. Police, security and hospital staff reacted swiftly along with the media."

There are requirements on UK airports to regularly carry out emergency exercises and officials at Heathrow airport in west London had a major drill last December.

A Heathrow spokeswoman said: "We planned about six months in advance and our exercise involved a plane crashing just off the airport site. We notified all local authorities' press offices and the emergency services as well as contacting the Highways Agency. No misinformation was put out."

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