By DAILY NATION
A passenger plane on Monday caused a scare after a wheel dropped off midair, moments after take-off from Lodwar airstrip in Turkana County, northern Kenya.
The rear right wheel came off the Silverstone Air plane like a stone and dropped outside the airstrip located some 500 kilometres from the capital Nairobi.
The bombardier Dash 8-300, registration number 5YBWG, had four passengers and five crew members on board.
“The wheel was collected by members of public several metres outside the airport,” Turkana Central Sub County Police Commander David Mburukwa told the Nation.
“It was recovered and taken to airport’s managers office.”
On discovering the emergency, police in Lodwar alerted their counterparts and emergency services at Moi International Airport in Eldoret, who put in place measures to receive the plane with passengers and crew in distress.
The craft, which took off at 9.18am from Lodwar to Nairobi, made the emergency landing in Eldoret a few minutes to 10am East African time.
Police and emergency services workers evacuated the craft, with some passengers, who said they had been informed of the mishap, looking traumatised.
In a statement, Silverstone Air confirmed the incident, saying the plane lost “the number 3 wheel assembly”.
“The captain of the flight decided to divert to Eldoret International Airport in the interests of the continued safety of the passengers and the crew. This was a precautionary action and the aircraft landed safely,” the airline’s management said.
The airline said it had activated its contingency plans and the customers affected were rebooked and have since landed safely in Nairobi.
With the missing wheel, the nine people on board were in real danger because on Bombardier Dash 8-300s, rear wheels shoulder the bulk of the plane’s weight during take-off and landing.
The rear pair of wheels is very close to centre of gravity and carries most of the aircraft’s weight, as the nose wheel carries a small fraction of it.
The missing wheel could also affect the plane’s balance and stability while in flight and more so during landing.
This is the second incident to rock the operations, and dent the air safety record, of Silverstone Air in a month.
On October 11, nine people were hurt, with three suffering life-threatening injuries, after the airline’s Fokker 50 skidded off the runway at Wilson Airport in Nairobi.
Witnesses say the aircraft with 50 passengers and five crew members on board lost its way during take-off to Mombasa on its way to the coastal city of Lamu.
The cause of the skid was not immediately established but some pilots who spoke to the Nation in confidence said they suspected that one of the plane’s two engines failed.