Incident at Bujumbura International Airport

The engine blast reactor of a Boeing 747 was hit at Bujumbura International Airport last Saturday, 20th December 2014. According to Albert Maniratunga, the airport’s Chief Executive Officer, agent incompetence was the major contributing factor.-By Diane Uwimana

The aircraft hit by the blast barrier ©Iwacu

The aircraft hit by the blast barrier ©Iwacu

“The cause of this incident was that the marshal agents misjudged the height of the aircraft”, reported Maniratunga. According to Maniratunga, the incident was caused by mis-estimation of the height of the motor reactor by the marshallers on the large plane. As a result, the plane was guided incorrectly, causing the collision. “The cowling was hit but the engine itself, and the turbine remained intact.” Albert Maniratunga stated that there were several factors leading to the incident.

Sobugea, the organization responsible for providing marshallers and for loading and offloading cargos have apparently recently been replaced at Bujumbura airport. The newly replaced marshallers were inexperienced and not familiar with this particular, very large aircraft.

“Our responsibility is to welcome and position all aircraft landing at our airport, under the Chicago convention”, states Maniratunga. The new agents had received a month worth of training, in which they practiced using a van in place of an aircraft or a plane.

Albert Maniratunga assured that ground staff at the airport will receive further training. He stated, “It is true that our agents must learn how to park plane and aircraft on the ground but step by step, they will learn.”
Maniratunga confirms that the civil aviation participates in a security audit every four years as ordered by the International Civil Aviation Organization to ensure safety standards are in place.
Sobugea have been responsible for providing marshals to Bujumbura International Airport since the airport was opened in 1952. Each staff is trained according to specific aircraft type and size, as the dimensions and resulting requirements differ considerably according to plane.
Maniratunga situates blame for the incident firstly to marshallers who should have correctly judged the size of the plane and provided indication as to how and where it should park. And secondly to the pilot who should have been able to estimate the size of his plane compared to the blast barrier.