A British Airways jumbo jet carrying 202 passengers and crew sliced into an office building at Johannesburg’s main airport after following the wrong taxiway prior to takeoff for London, injuring four people on the ground.
The Boeing Co. (BA) 747-400, with a wingspan of 211 feet (64 meters), had been instructed to use taxiway B but followed the narrower taxiway M, causing a wing to strike the offices, where the injuries were caused by debris from the building, South Africa’s Civil Aviation Authority said. Photos taken by passengers showed the wing embedded into the second floor of the building, having ripped through the side for several meters.
“This wasn’t just a case of the wing grazing the building, this was a huge incursion,” said Robert Mann, a consultant who formerly ran fleet management at American Airlines and who describes London-Johannesburg as a “senior route” most likely staffed by experienced cockpit crews.
A kerosene spill from the fully fueled jumbo, which would have had thousands of gallons of propellant in its wings, was contained by the airport fire services, and no one aboard was hurt, the authority said. The 747 has been removed from the office block and its flight recorders recovered for analysis.