Kenya Airways is staring at an operational headache after three of its aircraft were pulled out of service this week, following two separate incidents.
On Tuesday evening, a Boeing Dreamliner 787 enroute to Johannesburg had to make an emergency landing in Dar es Salaam after it developed mechanical problems in mid-air.
Engineers in Nairobi had detected an issue with the aircraft but it was cleared to fly after it was ruled out as a false alarm. In Dar es Salaam, the aircraft blew one of its GEnx engines, putting it out of service.
“The aircraft made an emergency landing in Dar and it was then decided that the flight be cancelled. Passengers were booked into a hotel and flown to Johannesburg the next day via South African Airways,” a source said.
However, Kenya Airways denied any loss of engine involving the Johannesburg-bound aircraft, noting that there was an “indication” on the flight deck concerning the left engine during the flight.
“The crew shut down the engine as per procedure and diverted to Dar es Salaam. Our engineers travelled to Dar es Salaam to assess the engine and determined that it needed to be changed,” said CEO Sebastian Mikosz.
KQ said that an in-flight shutdown of the engine is rare, and that it will be sent to the manufacturer to determine the reason for the failure.
For the airline, this could not have come at a worse time, given that three days earlier, two of its Embraer planes collided at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in the capital Nairobi. The incident is said to have occurred during a standard technical engine maintenance check at the hangar that caused movement of one of the aircraft hence the impact.
“The two aircraft sustained substantial damage and have been withdrawn from service for investigations. After such incidents, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority and Kenya Airways Safety team are required by law to carry out investigations and furnish a report. This process is ongoing and once complete, repairs can commence,” the airline said.
KCAA director-general Gilbert Kibe said measures will be put in place to mitigate another collision.
“Some flights could be cancelled. Every aircraft is engaged every day. If two are not available, that will mess up the schedule. We hope that the flights will resume as soon as possible,” he said.
But KQ said its operations will not be disrupted.
“When planning operations, such risks are factored in. It is also low season. We have realigned our schedules with our partner JamboJet, and are operating with minimal inconvenience,” said Mr Mikosz.