Ethiopian Airlines pilot mistakenly lands at unfinished airport | News | DW | 05.04.2021
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Ethiopian Airlines pilot mistakenly lands at unfinished airport

The plane's nonappearance took its original destination in Zambia by surprise. As the pilot informed air traffic control that he was about to land, they told him: "We can't see you."

An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 777F cargo plane

The pilot landed at an unfinished Chinese-built airport 15 kilometers from his intended destination

An Ethiopian Airlines plane landed at an airport that is still under construction in Zambia, "by mistake," a government official and the carrier announced on Monday.

The cargo plane touched down on Sunday at the not-yet-finished airport in Zambia's northern Copperbelt province, which is currently served by the Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport, some 15 kilometers (9 miles) away.

Landing glitch

"When he was about to land he was communicating with the radar, and they told him: 'We can't see you,'" the Transport Ministry's permanent secretary, Misheck Lungu, told the news agency AFP. "So he used his sight as he had no control and landed at an airport still under construction."

Lungu added that no damage had been incurred and said investigators would be releasing a "comprehensive report."

Though there is no mention of the incident on its Twitter page, Ethiopian Airlines confirmed that the episode had taken place and said an investigation, in cooperation with Zambian authorities, was already underway.

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Pandemic delays airport opening

Zambia is Africa's second-largest copper producer, with the majority of the mineral located in the Copperbelt region.

The Chinese-built airport in the Copperbelt was supposed to open in mid-2020, but was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Once finished, the $397 million (€336 million) airport will have a greater carrying capacity than its predecessor, with upgraded amenities and 3,500 meters (3,827 yards) of runway.

Cargo flights have helped Ethiopian Airlines remain financially viable during the pandemic, with Africa's largest carrier using dozens of passenger planes as freight transporters.

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