'We don't want to die'

Passengers on flight from Israel to Greece refuse to remain on board after being told plane's brakes need to cool off following sudden stop.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Passenger plane (Archive image)
Passenger plane (Archive image)

A flight which was slated to depart Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport for Thessaloniki Sunday was cancelled, after passengers refused to remain on board the plane after being informed of technical problems with the aircraft’s brake system.

The incident occurred Sunday night onboard a plane operated by the Greek airline company Astra Airlines.

According to a report Wednesday morning by Channel 12, the flight, carrying some 90 passengers, was originally scheduled to depart Saturday, but was delayed until Sunday, due to technical problems with the aircraft.

Passengers were informed that the plane was suffering from technical problems, and that the flight was rescheduled for 10:30 p.m. Sunday night.

When the roughly 90 passengers assigned to the flight arrived, however, further delays pushed back the boarding of the plane until 11:30 p.m. Sunday.

After finally boarding the flight, however, passengers complained of strange noises coming from the aircraft.

“The plane started to warm up its engines,” said Yaakov Stein, one of the passengers, “and we began to hear all kinds of weird sounds as the engine was speeding up, then [the plane] started to move with incredible speed.”

But rather than take off, the plane abruptly stopped.

“Just when we thought that the plane was going to be airborne in a second, it stopped suddenly, with the brakes screeching. It was really terrifying, especially when you know beforehand that this plane had problems. Then suddenly we saw all kinds of emergency vehicles and police cars and ambulances arriving, which just stressed us out more.”

Crew members onboard the flight tried to calm passengers following the plane’s abrupt halt.

“I’m telling you the truth, all of it, I have nothing to hide from anyone,” a crew member told passengers. “There was a problem with the GPS system on the plane, and the procedure says that we need to stop the flight.”

The crew member went on to explain that the problem with the plane’s GPS system, which could be fixed simply by restarting the plane’s computer. But, he added, the flight would have to wait to take off until the brakes had cooled down from the sudden stop.

At this point, passengers began to shout at crew members, demanding that they be allowed to disembark from the plane.

Footage of the incident showed a number of passengers yelling at the flight crew.

"We don't want to die," one passenger shouted.

"The brakes can cool off for another two weeks as far as I'm concerned, I want to get off the plane."

After a majority of the passengers refused to remain on board, the flight was cancelled.

Astra Airlines issued a statement following the report on the incident, saying that passenger safety is the company’s “highest value.”

“In this case, because of an unforeseen technical problem on an Astra aircraft slated for this flight, it was necessary to delay the flight.”

“Astra made every effort to find an alternate plane approved by the airport authority. The passengers were told to remain at home, and were called to the airport when the time for the new flight was set.”

Astra added that the plane which was eventually boarded Sunday night was not the same plane which had suffered technical problems on Saturday.

The substitute plane which was boarded Sunday was operated and manned by Trade Air “and was not a plane or crew from Astra Airlines.”

“By an unfortunate coincidence, this plane also suffered a technical problem during takeoff, and the captain decided to stop the flight in order to perform a technical check.”