It appears from video footage of Tallinn airport that the landing gear of the Polish Antonov 26 transport aircraft that made an emergency landing on Lake Ülemiste hadn’t come out when the plane approached the airport.
“The pilots then tried to cut short the landing and to gain altitude again, but that didn’t work out and an emergency landing was made on the ice of Lake Ülemiste,” board member Erik Sakkov said.
The aircraft of the Polish company Exin with four Polish crew members and two cargo handlers on board made an emergency landing on the lake next to the Tallinn airport at 10:18 a.m. on Thursday. The plane was arriving from Finland with a cargo for DHL. The crew of the Antonov An-26 twin turboprop had informed air traffic controllers in Tallinn before the incident that the port side engine was malfunctioning and the plane was constantly veering to the left on approach to the airport, said Jens Haug, aviation expert at the Estonian Ministry of Economy and Communications.
The pilots were unable to land the plane on the first attempt and during the second approach they decided to perform a belly landing on the frozen lake. At that point the aircraft had no radio connection with the tower and the emergency landing was the pilots’ own decision, Haug said.
The plane’s landing gear functioned properly. The pilots pulled up the gear after failing to land on the landing strip, which is usual procedure in such cases, the expert said.
Raul Adlas, chief doctor of Tallinn’s ambulance service, said the plane’s 60-year-old pilot suffered a contusion but his injuries were not serious. The other people on board the plane did not need medical attention.
Interior Minister Marko Pomerants said at the government press conference that fuel was leaking from the plane’s wings, where fuel tanks are situated. Helen Kuuseoja, spokesperson for the North Estonia Rescue Center, said that rescuers were busy containing the leak. She said fuel would be pumped out from the plane’s tanks at the first opportunity.
“Right now rescue teams are working to stabilise the situation to avoid the plane’s sinking through the ice and prevent the leakage of fuel,” Kuuseoja said. By late afternoon, an estimated 1.5 tons of aircraft fuel had spilled from the plane. Rescue workers are collecting the fuel with absorbent and other equipment.
Lake Ülemiste, an off-limits area, is where drinking water for most residents of Tallinn comes from. “The danger for Tallinners’ tap water is not very big in the short term, as we’ve got a supply of clean drinking water,” Priit Koff, spokesman for the water utility company Tallinna Vesi, said earlier in the day. Even if oil should end up in the lake, its reaching the area of the water purification plant would take at least a month, according to specialists at Tallinna Vesi. “We pump the water for purification from the deeper layers of the lake, therefore the impact from surface pollution will not be very big,” said Koff. Tallinna Vesi already has ordered chemicals for the purification of water contaminated with fuel.
“Right now we’re keeping a close watch on the quality of raw water in order to take extra measures if necessary. We definitely can guarantee that the drinking water reaching taps across the city from the water purification plant meets all quality requirements 100 percent,” he said.
Source: Estonian Review
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