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Smoke from cargo hold forces an emergency landing

By Ednal Palmer HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, May 17, 2011) - A Solomon Airlines operated flight from Honiara to Brisbane was forced to turn back half-way through the flight after the aircraft developed mechanical faults mid-air yesterday afternoon.

The airbus left Henderson international airport at about 5pm, but turned back an hour later for an emergency landing, when smoke billowed from its cargo haul.

One passenger spoken to who wants his name withheld said they were told mid-air that the aircraft has developed mechanical problems.

"Smoke developed in the aircraft’s cargo haul an hour into the flight, but we were told to calm down as we scrambled back to Honiara," he said.

Aviation workers spoken to after last night’s emergency landing said the aircraft arrived late at Henderson from Brisbane yesterday.

"It came in late, so it departed just before 5pm.

The aircraft made the emergency landing at about 6.20pm in the evening.

Before the aircraft could land, all emergency factions including fire trucks and fire fighters, hospital ambulances, police, aviation and airport staff were all on standby.

Another aviation worker said emergency was activated when the emergency call came from the pilot, and all emergency services were alerted who scramble to arrive before the aircraft could negotiate the runway.

The aircraft landed on the Western end of the airport to waiting fire trucks which swiftly dashed along the running aircraft to quell any combustion.

The aircraft landed smoothly and taxied safely to the international terminal.

Passengers were quickly evacuated out from the aircraft as fire fighters investigate the source of the smoke in the cargo haul.

A total of 38 passengers were on the aircraft.

Orders were given to security staff to keep out the media from accessing the site according to one aviation officer.

The airbus was leased by Solomon from by Strategic Airlines.

Solomon Airlines and Strategic Aviation of Australia launched the partnership deal in August 2009.

It was difficult to verify whether the Strategic airbus was the A330-300 which can carry about 287 passengers or the A320-200 which can take only 156 passengers.

Strategic Airlines is a scheduled passenger and charter airline based in Brisbane, Australia, and is a subsidiary of Strategic Aviation Group Pty Ltd.

The airline currently has dual French and Australian Air Operator's Certificates and focuses primarily on providing ACMI (aircraft, crews, maintenance and insurance) or 'wet-leased' aircraft to other operators around Europe and Asia-Pacific.

This particular aircraft had been developing mechanical faults in the past weeks during routine flights during its Brisbane – Honiara – Brisbane flight according to eye witnesses.

One aviation worker told Solomon Star last night the aircraft had developed problems several times in recent weeks and also forced to return to land.

Solomon Star could not speak with any responsible authorities last night on the cause of the fault as the media was barred from the site.

Solomon Airlines operated four services a week every Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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