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Cablegate: Fire On Safi Airways Plane Carrying Afghan Foreign

VZCZCXRO1778
OO RUEHDBU RUEHPW RUEHSL
DE RUEHBUL #3099 2781317
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 051317Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1833
RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS KABUL 003099

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EEB/TRA, S/SRAP, SCA/FO, SCA/RA, SCA/A
DEPT PASS FAA FOR RAY SMITH

E.O. 12958 N/A
TAGS: EAIR PGOV AF
SUBJECT: FIRE ON SAFI AIRWAYS PLANE CARRYING AFGHAN FOREIGN
MINISTER

1. (U) Summary: The landing gear of a Safi Airways Boeing 737
flying Oct. 3 from Dubai to Kabul caught fire immediately upon
landing at Kabul International Airport (KIA). No passengers were
injured and the crew quickly and safely evacuated the plane.
Foreign Minister Spanta was on the flight, returning from the United
Nations General Assembly; he was next to the President of Safi Air.
Airport emergency crews reacted promptly to the fire, but were
unable to move the plane. As a result Kabul's single runway was
blocked for three hours. End summary.

2. (U) According to Safi Airways President Tilmann Gabriel, who was
a passenger on the plane, the left landing gear of the Dubai - Kabul
flight locked and caught fire following touchdown Oct. 3 in Kabul.
Ministry of Transportation and Civil Aviation (MOTCA) inspectors
contracted via the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
preliminarily found an anti-skid system failure caused the left main
wheels to lock during landing, resulting in brake overheating and
tire failure. Gabriel could not provide details of the plane's
maintenance history but said Safi replaces tires more frequently
than required due to the rough runway surface at KIA.

3. (U) ISAF fire fighters quickly responded and recommended
passengers evacuate. Gabriel said all passengers were off the plane
within five minutes. He and Spanta, who were seated in business
class, were the last to exit. All passengers were evacuated through
the rear exit after wind flipped over the inflated forward exit
slide.

4. (U) Due to severe tire damage, the plane could not taxi off the
runway after the fire was extinguished. Afghan National Police
cordoned off the area while Safi maintenance staff replaced the
tire. The repair work closed the sole runway at KIA for more than
three hours, delaying commercial and cargo flights. (Note: no
combat flights use KIA. End note.) Two Embassy Air and one INL Air
flights were diverted to Bagram Air Field.

5. (U) According to Gabriel, Foreign Minister Spanta called the
chairman of Safi's board Oct. 5 to compliment the crew on its
efficient reaction. The plane returned to service within 24 hours.
Ministry of Transportation inspectors are completing their
investigation of the incident.

EIKENBERRY

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