Investigators point to air duct failure after FlySafair flight gives passengers nosebleeds

Business Insider SA
(Facebook, FlySafair)
(Facebook, FlySafair)
  • The failure of an air duct on a FlySafair plane "drastically reduced the efficiency of the left-side air-conditioning pack system", according to a preliminary investigation into an incident in November.
  • Three passengers had nosebleeds, and five reported severe ear pain, after a pressurisation problem on a flight between Cape Town and East London.
  • The plane made an emergency landing at George, without deploying oxygen masks.
  • Trouble closing a door just before departure has not been linked to the issue.
  • FlySafair says it is satisfied its crew acted "by the book in terms of safety protocols".
  • The airline had engine trouble on another flight in December.
  • For more stories go to

A broken pipe on a flight between Cape Town and East London appears to have been at the root of a "serious incident" aboard a FlySafair flight in November, according to a preliminary report of the SA Civil Aviation Authority's accident and incident investigations division.

The regulator recommended that similar parts on other planes be checked during standard maintenance inspections.

A failure of cabin pressure at very nearly 33,000 feet cruising altitude for the flight left one passenger in need of medical assistance, three with nosebleeds, and five with severe air pain, the CAA said in its initial findings.

Things got bad enough that the pilots put on their oxygen masks, as part of standard procedures, but "oxygen masks were not deployed in the cabin area" before an emergency landing in George.

The incident lacked some of the drama of a mid-air engine failure on a FlySafair flight in December, just about a month later, and no injuries were reported among 149 other passengers and crew aboard. 

See also | ‘Our hearts stopped.’ FlySafair flight forced to turn back after engine trouble

Before takeoff from Cape Town on 22 November, doors on the 30-year-old plane were repeatedly disarmed and closed again after a crew member wasn't satisfied they had properly closed the first time. The plane took off only after a technician inspected the doors from the outside – and after three tries.

But the doors were found to have been "adjusted as per the aircraft maintenance manual", investigators said – while there was a hole in a critical air-conditioning component.

Damaged FlySafair air duct
Damage to the air duct. (CAA)

Investigators are still "looking into other aspects of this serious incident, which may or may not have safety implications", according to the preliminary report.

The report is part of a process intended to promote aviation safety, and is explicitly not intended to apportion blame.

FlySafair said it was too early to add much to an ongoing investigation, but praised the actions of its crew.

"We’d just like to acknowledge our crew who managed the situation by the book in terms of safety protocols and did an excellent job in ensuring a safe landing in George," spokesperson Kirby Gordon told Business Insider South Africa. 

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