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Cape Town International Airport runway shut down after hydraulic fluid spill

Cape Town International Airport runway shut down after hydraulic fluid spill
Cape Town International Airport. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

Passengers were left frustrated on Thursday after the main runway at Cape Town International Airport was closed, causing flight delays and cancellations.

Flights were delayed or diverted from Cape Town International Airport on Thursday after the airport’s main runway was closed when an aircraft reporting a technical issue leaked hydraulic fluid.

Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) said the runway was closed just after 2pm for safety reasons. Acsa said the runway would be “reopened shortly”, but in a statement released after 9pm, it said the runway remained closed.

“The main runway was closed just after 2pm this afternoon. However, the secondary runway has remained available to small gauge aircraft. As a result, both arrival and departure flights have been impacted,” Acsa’s statement reads.

“The aircraft in question was subsequently removed from the main runway, and this was followed by a runway inspection. Acsa is currently busy with clean-up operations, during which time the main runway will remain closed as the safety of our passengers and staff is our top priority.  

“We would like to take this opportunity to apologise to all our customers and stakeholders for any inconvenience caused. The matter is receiving attention at the highest level of our airport management team. 

“Travellers are advised to contact their respective airlines for more information.”

Clean-up operations at Cape Town International Airport following its temporary closure this afternoon due to an aircraft that developed technical issues on the runway. (Photo: Twitter / @capetownint)

FlySafair posted an update on X just after 6pm saying that flights to and from Cape Town had started departing, presumably on the airport’s secondary runway.

The airline added, “There are a number of aircraft across several airlines that have been delayed. We await clearance times from air traffic control for our flights.”

Frustrated passengers took to social media looking for updates on their respective flights.

One X user told British Airways, “Passengers in Cape Town [were] stranded without any notification.” The airline responded: “The flight has been night stopped and is scheduled to depart tomorrow, 13 October, at 21:10.”

Another account on X, attributed to Alexander Owens, called for an update from United Airlines, telling the airline, “PLEASE do not leave us stranded in Cape Town. There are no reps here. No answers. Airport staff doing best they can — where are you?”

United responded, “We’re sorry to hear this, Alexander. We’re aware of the situation and are working on getting out the communication to all of those affected.”

Ethiopian Airlines and Emirates flights were also affected, according to social media users. One passenger said he had waited six hours for his Addis Ababa flight to depart to Cape Town before it was cancelled.

The runway was still closed at 11pm on Thursday and Acsa advised passengers to check for flight updates and contact their airlines for more information. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • This incident highlights the need for two runways at Cape Town. ACSA want to develop a new runway and this will involve closing the second and vitally important runway.

    Having the second runway available at least allows for medium and light aircraft to operate safely into and out of Cape Town. It is limiting for heavy aircraft but at least the majority of flights were allowed to operate. Something that would not have happened should ACSA get their way and reduce to one runway.

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      What about the people living there and the additional noise? This has happened, like once and the residents will suffer 24×7 I imagine?

  • John Holloway says:

    To the editor: It’s ‘hydraulic fluid’ – not ‘fuel’. It’s a mineral-based oil use to transfer energy to move the flight control systems (flaps, etc.), apply the brakes (also in cars), and so on.

    • DONALD MOORE says:

      I am just a reader not an expert on fluid and fuel but in the heading to the article reference is made to hydraulic fluid and also in the first paragraph of the article. Where in the article do you find an editorial error John. I can’t find it?

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