Plane with WCup journalists crash-lands

A plane carrying World Cup journalists made an emergency landing

at a regional airport in northern Johannesburg on Sunday after

experiencing technical problems soon after takeoff.

Mark Christoph, operations manager at Lanseria Airport, said the

chartered plane had problems with its undercarriage and was forced

to make the crash-landing.

“After takeoff, it realized that one of its undercarriage

wheels was malfunctioning,” Christoph said. “They spent about an

hour in the air, circling the airport trying to resolve the

problem, going through the normal procedures, and couldn’t get it

right. So they elected to land without wheels on to the

runway.”

Airport spokesman Johan Opperman said no one was hurt in the

incident, which happened at about 11 a.m. local time.

The Qatar-based Al-Jazeera TV network said the Metroliner twin

turboprop aircraft had 16 people on board, including 14 Al-Jazeera

employees who were on their way to Polokwane for the World Cup game

between Algeria and Slovenia.

“The team is doing well, but they are a bit shaky after the

ordeal,” Al-Jazeera editor-in-chief Mohammed Ammor said. “It was

a near death experience … but they are all in good conditions now

and they will all resume their duties.”

Christoph said sparks flew from the underside of the plane as it

came down on its belly on the Lanseria runway. People left the

aircraft through the emergency exits after it came to a stop.

Christoph added that the aircraft had been removed from the

runway and airport operations were returning to normal. Airport

officials said an investigation had been launched.

The airport also confirmed the runway was cleared in time for

film star John Travolta to fly from Lanseria to Durban in his own

Qantas-branded 707 aircraft.

Travolta is a spokesman for the Australian airline and is in

South Africa to support the Australian football team at the World

Cup.