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Passengers arrive in Singapore after emergency landing scare


A member of Singapore Airlines ground staff (C) greets passengers upon their arrival at Changi International Airport after their Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 relief plane landed in Singapore. Photo - AFP

Baku: Nearly 500 Singapore Airlines passengers arrived safely on Tuesday after their Airbus A380 superjumbo was forced to make an emergency landing in Azerbaijan.

"It was quite frightening," Chris Milbourn, an 18-year-old student from Australia, said after getting off a replacement A380 that ferried them from Azerbaijan's capital Baku to Singapore.

"I was calm... but there will be like moments here and there when you just think 'I am about to die'," he said.

The relief jet touched down at Changi Airport more than 34 hours after a loss of cabin pressure forced the original plane to land in Baku while en route from London's Heathrow Airport to Singapore.

The original flight carrying 467 passengers and 27 crew had to make a steep descent to Baku's Heydar Aliyev International Airport late on Monday night, but no one was injured.

Oxygen masks were activated during the emergency procedure and passengers spoke of noise coming from one door as the aircraft manoeuvered to land, but said there was little panic inside the A380, the world's largest commercial plane.

Jessica Copeland, 26, a waitress from Australia who was seated in the upper part of the double-decker plane, said seeing other passengers behaving calmly "really helped me".

"I thought we were going completely down," she said.

Ashley Li, 28, a Singaporean returning from her European honeymoon, said she was "a bit shocked" when the oxygen masks dropped in the cabin but "there was no turbulence" as the plane descended towards Baku.

Stephen Biss, a 47-year-old tennis coach from Britain, added that "nobody was screaming or anything".
Indonesia-based independent aviation consultant Gerry Soejatman said the response by the pilot was "typical of what you should do when there is cabin depressurisation".

"Depending on the pressure in the cabin, the standard operating procedure is for the pilot to then decide how soon he should descend to 10,000 feet (3,048 metres), a level where human beings can breathe normally," he said.

"In this case, the pilot decided to descend to buy some time. At least at 10,000 feet, you can breathe normally without a mask on and you can think and decide on the best course of action," he said by telephone from Jakarta.

"The plane landed only a few hours later, so they must have weighed their options and also because it was an A380, they also were looking for the best place to land because not all airports can take them."

Singapore Airlines has a fleet of 19 Airbus A380s with five others on order, according to its website.

The planes are used for flights from Singapore to various destinations including Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London and Los Angeles.

Airbus said in a statement on Monday it was "following up on this issue and providing technical assistance to the airline".

Singapore Airlines was forced to apologise to passengers for a lengthy wait at Baku airport before they were transferred to hotels.

Many of the passengers took to social media to complain they were stranded at the airport with few amenities.

Singapore Airlines said the stricken aircraft would return to Singapore after "any necessary repairs" are carried out.

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