Sochi trip: Embarrassment grows

13 October 2017 | Youth

Air Namibia's Airbus A330 might have taken off on time on Tuesday evening at 21:00 as scheduled and landed “safe and sound” at Sochi, Russia, on Wednesday morning around 08:40, but the aftermath of this trip has reportedly unravelled in an embarrassing comedy of errors.

According to insiders chaos ensued right from the start when the flight was very nearly cancelled because there was no flight plan and few preparations had been made for the long-haul flight.

A last-minute decision was made to take off nevertheless to get the estimated 200 National Youth Council (NYC) delegates to the 2017 World Festival of Youth and Students.

The NYC chartered the Airbus for the direct flight to Russia and the rash decision meant that the cabin crew was on duty for nearly 26 hours, an official of the Namibian Cabin Crew Union (NCCU) who prefers anonymity, said.

This source said this was in violation of aviation regulations which stipulate a maximum shift of 18 hours.

When the flight arrived at Sochi, the Russian hosts reportedly were less than amused to find that there were in fact many more Namibian delegates than had been invited or catered for.

As if that was not enough, handlers at the Sochi airport apparently damaged the plane's cargo door while offloading the luggage.

That meant that the aircraft was stuck at Sochi airport for about six hours while the matter was attended to.





As a result of this unforeseen delay, the Airbus arrived late in Frankfurt for a scheduled flight back to Windhoek.





Air Namibia denied that the Sochi flight had left without an approved flight plan.

“To provide some perspective to the aviation operations, no aircraft (commercial, charter or private) is allowed to fly without a flight plan. Therefore, the flight plans were submitted and approved before the flight could depart from Windhoek.

“Flight plans entail details of a particular proposed flight, providing the exact departure and arrival details to ensure that the flight operates on the right path. Even when we ferry (transport an empty aircraft) our aircraft from Eros to Hosea Kutako International Airport, we need an approved flight plan. Therefore, this question is irrelevant in totality,” Air Namibia spokesperson Paulus Nakawa said.

Air Namibia also denied that the cabin crew had to work for nearly 26 hours.

It said the flight left Windhoek at around 20:53 and arrived at Sochi at 06:41, which is around 08:41 local Namibian time. Hence, Air Namibia said, the cabin crew was on duty for about 10 continuous hours.

Air Namibia said there were 10 cabin crew, three in the cockpit for flight operations and two cockpit staff that were passengers on the flight to Russia who ferried the aircraft from Sochi to Frankfurt.

“This is the optimum crew, which is aligned to international aviation standards,” Air Namibia stated.

It also denied that the cargo door of the plane had been damaged by Russian handlers, saying: “Since this was a charter transaction, the Russians created a slot for us since this is not our normal operating base. As soon as all the clearance was completed and approved by the air traffic control in Russia, our aircraft was ferried to Frankfurt. Please take note that cabin crew members were not on duty at this point.”

CATHERINE SASMAN

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