Nairobi, Kenya | By Michael Wandati | On Sunday 17, December 2023 morning, a Kenya Airways (KQ) flight faced challenges during its attempt to land at Kigali International Airport due to adverse weather conditions, prompting the aircraft, KQ 478, to make a decision to turn back to Nairobi after two unsuccessful landing attempts.
The scheduled operation from Nairobi to Kigali, which commenced around 7:35 am, encountered low visibility and worsening weather conditions during the normal approach to the Kigali International Airport, as outlined in the official statement from Kenya Airways (KQ). The aircraft safely landed back in Nairobi at 09:50 hrs.
In the statement, Kenya Airways (KQ) expressed regret for any inconvenience caused to passengers, emphasizing that the safety of both passengers and crew remains their top priority. The airline assured customers that the decision to return to Nairobi was made with the primary concern being the well-being of everyone on board.
“Kenya Airways PLC confirms that on 17 December 2023 at approximately 07:45 hrs (East African Time), KQ 478, on a scheduled operation from Nairobi to Kigali, encountered low visibility and deteriorating weather on the normal approach to land at Kigali International Airport, after two unsuccessful attempts to land the crew elected to return to Nairobi for the safety of passengers and crew onboard. The aircraft landed safely in Nairobi at 09:50 hrs (East African Time),” KQ explained in its statement.
“The passengers are being transferred on to the next available flight. Air turnbacks are standard safety procedures. We sincerely apologise to our guests for the inconvenience and assure our customers that their safety and that of our crew is our highest priority,” added the statement.
Certainly, Kigali International Airport found itself shrouded in a dense fog, causing disruptions to both take-off and landing procedures, affecting several airlines grappling with the adverse weather conditions.
Rwanda’s national carrier, Rwanda Air, acknowledged in a recent update that its operations from the Kigali hub were also significantly influenced by the weather.
“Due to poor visibility as a result of heavy fog at Kigali International Airport, we are expecting flight delays to/from Kigali. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause,” Rwanda Air stated.
Today’s air turnback marks the second occurrence within less than three days for Kenya Airways (KQ). The previous incident involved flight KQ 310 bound for Dubai, which was compelled to return to Nairobi on Friday, December 15, 2023.
During a routine inspection conducted by the airport’s Air Traffic Control team, debris from the aircraft’s tires was discovered on the runway that it utilized for takeoff to Dubai. In response to this finding, the flight crew was promptly notified, and, as a precautionary measure, they concurred to turn back and return to Nairobi.
“Upon further inspection, it was established by the KQ operations team that the tyre debris was from KQ 310, which had departed on a scheduled operation from Nairobi to Dubai. The KQ operations team contacted the crew and agreed on a precautionary air turn back to Nairobi for further technical attention.” KQ revealed in a statement.
“Air turn back” refers to an aviation scenario where an aircraft, shortly after takeoff, decides to return to its departure airport due to safety, technical, or operational concerns. This decision is typically made to ensure the well-being of passengers and crew in response to issues such as technical malfunctions, adverse weather, or other emergencies. It is a standard procedure in aviation aimed at prioritizing safety during flight operations.
This incident is part of a broader trend this year, where heavy rains and deteriorating weather conditions have led to the cancellation of multiple flights across the East African region.