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Air Zimbabwe aircraft flames were 'generally harmless'

Emergency services scrambled when the pilots called in a distress call, but after circling in the air and assessing the plane, the pilots continued on to Harare where the aircraft landed safely.

The aircraft flight path shows that immediately after take-off, it maintained altitude and circled around to land again. However, as it was to enter final approached went to cruise and head to Harare. Picture: Supplied.

PRETORIA - While the flames shooting out of a jet engine on an Air Zimbabwe Boeing aircraft that took off from OR Tambo International Airport on Sunday night caused much concern, the incident has been described as generally harmless.

SA Flyer Magazine’s Guy Leitch said it appeared the engine suffered a compressor stall caused by too little air and too much fuel entering the engine.

“It’s equivalent in car terminology to a backfire. Ninety-nine percent of the time this is spectacular but otherwise harmless. And as long as the engine checks out after this event - the Boeing manual, in this case, defines what is acceptable - then the crew can continue on to their destination.”

Emergency services scrambled when the pilots called in a distress call on Sunday, but after circling in the air and assessing the plane, the pilots continued on to Harare where the aircraft landed safely.

The same plane, which was carrying 98 passengers and nine crew members, struck a bird when departing from Bulawayo en route to Harare on Friday.

Flight radar data recorded reveals that soon after take-off the aircraft entered a circular pattern to land immediately.

However, it’s understood the engine recovered and the crew reported that the fault had cleared.

Air Zimbabwe said it had initiated an investigation.