AP News

Plane in South Africa catches fire, no injuries


JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A chartered Boeing MD-82 airplane aborted its takeoff Tuesday in South Africa after its landing gear caught fire when a tire came off its mount, officials said. No one was injured.

The Global Aviation Operations Ltd. flight was attempting to leave O.R. Tambo International Airport near Johannesburg when one of its pilots saw the landing gear on fire, said Unathi Batyashe-Fillis, a spokeswoman for the Airports Company South Africa. The pilot halted the takeoff and stopped the plane on one of the runways at South Africa's busiest airport, temporarily closing it. The flight's destination was the southern African nation of Malawi.

Rescuers and emergency workers quickly surrounded the plane which had 136 people on board, officials said. The plane had been bound for Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, she said.

Global Aviation Operations, which flies charter flights throughout Africa, blamed the fire on a "tire separation." A statement Tuesday from its CEO Ronald Finger said the company would investigate the cause of the tire problem. Those on the flight were flown out on an alternative aircraft, he said.

The McDonnell Douglas MD-82, a jet aircraft often used by airlines for middle-distance flights, is a model owned by Boeing Co. McDonnell Douglas had stopped production of all but one of the models in the series when Boeing bought its smaller rival in 1997, and it closed down that line two years later to focus on newer models of its own popular midrange jet, the 737.

The plane involved in Tuesday's incident was manufactured in 1990 and exported to South Africa in 2009, according to U.S. Federal Aviation Administration records. In April 2007, the airline operating the plane had trouble with the aircraft's nose landing gear and found packing around a valve cracked, according to FAA records. The packing and gear later were serviced, the records show.

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Jon Gambrell can be reached at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP .


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