The year 2019 has kicked off with a close-call for Ethiopian Airlines. Its Boeing 737-800 (ET-ATV) aircraft skidded off the runway upon landing at the Entebbe International Airport (EBB) in Uganda, on January 3, forcing to close one of the airport’s two runways and affecting inbound international flights.
Flight ET338 was performing daily scheduled service from Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa to Entebbe, where Uganda’s main international airport is located.
The Boeing 737-800 took off from Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (ADD) at 22:50 pm (EAT) on January 2, and was landing at the Entebbe airport at 12:41 am (EAT) on January 3, when it overshot the runway and slid onto a grassy area.
According to the airline, the plane overshot the runway “by a few meters” and all 139 passengers and crew onboard the 737-800 disembarked safely (according to Simple Flying estimations, it might have been whole 125 meters (about 0.8 miles)).
“Passengers and crew were safely deplaned and were taken to terminal… There is no damage to the aircraft and it is being towed to the ramp,” a statement from Ethiopian Airlines shared on the carrier’s Facebook page read.
However, the incident did cause more disruption than Ethiopian Airlines – Africa’s largest carrier by passenger numbers – let on, resulting in the closure of the runway and thus affecting inbound international flights, as well as some outbound flights at Entebbe.
According to an official statement by Uganda’s civil aviation authority (CAA), it had issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) immediately after the incident, temporarily stopping incoming flights from outside the country until after the plane had been safely removed from the runway.
The 737 was “removed from the runway end at about 10:15 am” on January 3, the CAA stated, meaning that flight operations were able to resume only after over 9.5 hours.
The Ethiopian Airlines flight no. ET 338, a Boeing 737-800 Aircraft, which overshot the runway on landing at 12.41 am was removed from the runway end at 10.15 am and flight operations resumed. Please proceed with your scheduled flight in and out of Entebbe International Airport.
— Uganda CAA (@UgandaCAA) January 3, 2019
Turkish Airlines, Kenya Airways, Egypt Air and Rwanda Air were among those that had incoming morning flights at Entebbe at the time of runway closure. Rwanda’s national carrier, which operates daily flights to the airport, took to Twitter to inform its customers of flight cancellations:
Due to the runway closure of the Entebbe airport since 2207 GMT, we had to cancel our flights to Entebbe. All affected pax will be rebooked on other available flights and travel once the runway becomes operational. We sincerely apologize for all inconveniences caused.
— RwandAir (@FlyRwandAir) January 3, 2019
In a statement, shared on social media on January 3, Ethiopian Airlines has apologized to passengers onboard the Addis Ababa-Entebbe flight, saying all those affected will be rebooked on alternative available flights.
As for the cause of the incident, the carrier says it is under investigation. There is no mention of the weather conditions at the time of the landing.
Entebbe is Uganda‘s busiest and only international airport. Located near the town of Entebbe, the airport is roughly 45 km (21 miles) away from the capital city Kampala. The airport is served by airlines from across southern Africa, as well as some major international airlines from the Middle East and Europe.
In 1976, the name of the airport made headlines following the hijacking of an Air France flight en route from Tel Aviv (Israel) to Paris. The hijackers boarded the plane on a planned stopover in Athens (Greece) and then took it to Entebbe, where Israeli commandos rescued the hostages in a mission known as Operation Entebbe or Operation Thunderbolt. The plane was carrying 250 passengers onboard