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30 May 2023

Stricken Turkish plane lifted from cliff after runway mishap

Photo: AFP


Turkish engineers using two cranes on Thursday successfully lifted back to the runway a passenger plane which skidded onto a muddy embankment metres from the sea and languished there for over half a week.

The Pegasus Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane had landed normally at Trabzon airport late on Saturday on a flight from Ankara but then went off the runway just metres (feet) from the waters of the Black Sea with its wheels stuck in mud.

Since then, it has remained on the steep slope that descends from the airport apron into the sea for four days, its nose pointing down and managing to defy gravity by being stuck in thick mud.

The Turkish aviation authorities closed Trabzon airport from 0100 GMT to all air traffic so that the salvage operation could take place, with flights diverted to the nearby Ordu-Giresun airport, also on the Black Sea.

The authorities sent two cranes from Ankara and Samsun to carry out the operation which lasted for a total of 11 hours, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.

Engineers began by tying cables around the wing area of the plane in cradle fashion and also around the nose area.

Its nose pointing down and tail in the air, it was then lifted by the cranes in a hugely-delicate two hour operation before being set to rest in a horizontal position with no apparent further damage.

Crowds of locals enjoyed the spectacular and unusual event by watching outside the fence of the airport perimeter or even from boats in the sea, reports said.

It should now be emptied of the remaining fuel and taken to a hanger, where the baggage and personal possessions of the passengers will finally be removed.

All 162 passenger and six crew were safely evacuated but witnesses said at the time it was miracle there had been no casualties and the plane did not slip into the sea.

The pilot told prosecutors investigating the incident that the plane had undergone a sudden surge of power from one of the engines while taxiing on the runway.

The cause of the technical issue has yet to be made clear although images showed one of the engines had broken off and fallen into the sea.