An Air Zimbabwe plane declared an emergency shortly after take-off from Bangkok, Thailand, on Wednesday following a left engine technical fault, the airline said.
Flight UM462 was just 40 minutes into its flight to Islamabad, Pakistan, from Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok when it declared an emergency and requested to turn back.
The aircraft landed safely in Bangkok with its 17 crew and two passengers.
The 29-year-old Boeing 767-200 ER developed an “abnormal engine parameter which necessitated a precautionary left engine shut down in accordance with established standard operating procedures,” Air Zimbabwe said in a statement.
The aircraft was running a special repatriation service for South African and Zimbabwean citizens stranded in Asia following the global Covid-19 pandemic.
The plane, with registration Z-WPF, was due to pick up 180 South Africans and Zimbabweans who have been holed-up in Islamabad since the virus grounded most international flights.
“Our engineers are making all necessary assessments and maintenance for the aircraft’s return to serviceability,” Air Zimbabwe added.
In April last year, the same aircraft was seen flying over Johannesburg with its left engine emitting flames.
Pilots requested to return to OR Tambo International Airport and were granted permission. While turning back the flames disappeared and the aircraft continued with its flight to Harare.
The airline issued a statement in the immediate aftermath saying the plane, carrying 98 passengers and nine crew, “experienced a malfunction on one of its engines resulting in a brief tailpipe fire.” The airline said the malfunction “did not threaten the continuation of the flight and safety of the crew and passengers.”
But in a later update after the plane landed in Harare, the airline said it had established that the engine had been impacted by a “foreign object” which had caused sufficient damage to warrant a change of engine.
On February 25 last year, Air Zimbabwe delayed a flight to Johannesburg from Harare with the same aircraft as engineers feverishly worked on the left engine.
On April 26, last year, the same left engine reportedly bore the brunt of what was described as a bird strike on take-off from Bulawayo.
The Johannesburg tailpipe fire incident occurred two days later on April 28.