It would appear that an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 accidentally landed at the wrong airport today on a flight to Zambia… and then a second Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 did almost the same thing.
Ethiopian 737 lands at airport under construction
Ethiopian Airlines Cargo flight ET3891 was scheduled to operate from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Ndola, Zambia, this morning. The flight was operated by an 18 year old Boeing 737-800 with the registration code ET-AYL.
This plane only joined Ethiopian Airlines’ fleet last week — the plane previously flew for Pegasus Airlines, and was then converted into a freighter.
It’s being reported that the plane ended up landing at the wrong airport:
- The plane was supposed to land at Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe Airport, which is the international airport currently being used in Ndola
- Instead the plane landed at Copperbelt International Airport, which is the new international airport in the city that’s nearing completion, but not yet open
Here’s video footage of the plane taxiing at the airport (and you can see all the surprised construction workers, given that the airport isn’t yet open):
A second Ethiopian 737 almost made same mistake
This story gets even stranger. A pilot in an African aviation group on Facebook reports that another Ethiopian Airlines plane almost made the same mistake.
Ethiopian Airlines flight ET871 was scheduled to operate from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Ndola, Zambia, this morning. The flight was operated by a five year old Boeing 737-800 with the registration code ET-AQP.
According to the pilot, this plane did a last second go around at the airport under construction as well, before flying to the correct airport.
How could something like this happen?
As advanced as aviation is, this is far from the first time that a plane has landed at the wrong airport, and it will be far from the last time.
As of now we don’t have much information about what exactly happened, though I’m sure more details will emerge once there’s an investigation. A few things stand out:
- Based on my understanding, the new airport looks a lot more like a major airport than the current one, and the two airports also have runways that are oriented in similar directions; of course that doesn’t justify landing at the wrong airport, but if they were on a visual approach, it explains what could have contributed to this
- The fact that two Ethiopian Airlines planes allegedly made the same mistake on the same day is causing some to wonder whether something was programmed wrong, or if there was an issue with the navigation software
- I wonder if the ATC audio from this will be released; was there a lapse in communication, or how did neither the pilots nor controllers realize this was happening?
By the way, here’s an interesting video about the new airport in Ndola, which looks pretty darn cool:
While details are still limited as of now, it’s being reported that an Ethiopian Airlines Cargo 737 accidentally landed at the wrong airport in Zambia today. Instead of landing at the current international airport in the city, the plane instead landed at the new international airport under construction, about 10 miles away.
Then a second Ethiopian Airlines 737 apparently almost made a similar mistake, but executed a go around at the last second.
I’ll be curious to see if this is investigated more closely, and if so, what the cause of this is determined to be.