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27 Feb 2020 - On 10 Dec 2019, 737-400, ZS-DMI (24165/1720), FF 5/8/1989 (31 Years old), operated by Safair had smoke in the cockpit during a climb. They made use of their oxygen masks before declaring a mayday, requested an air turn back to OR Tambo International Airport, South Africa (FAOR). The aircraft landed safely at FAOR and there were no reported injuries.

The South African CAA published a preliminary report on 24 Feb 2020.


History of the Flight

On Tuesday morning, 10 December 2019, a Boeing 737-400, registration ZS-DMI, performing flight FA369 departed OR Tambo International Aerodrome (FAOR) on a scheduled domestic flight to Port Elizabeth Aerodrome (FAPE). The aircraft took off from runway 03L at 0434Z. On board the aircraft was 166 passengers and 6 crew members. While climbing through 28 000 ft, still within the Johannesburg FIR water that have accumulated in the left drip tray (above the pilot-in-command head) started to leak from the drain pipe on the left side onto the avionics/instrumentation of the aircraft. The water caused some arcing, which resulted in smoke emanating from the behind the instrument panel on the left side. Following a brief discussion between the two members they declared a Mayday and requested to returned to FAOR. The crew members opted to make use of their respective oxygen masks and landed safely back at FAOR thirty two (32) minutes after take-off, at 0506Z.

After the smoke started to emanate from the instrument panel the crew members fitted their oxygen mask. The smoke dissipated by itself and no intervention was required by the crew (i.e., not having to make use a fire extinguisher).

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*** Updated 18 Apr 2020 ***

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The Drip Tray and Drain Tube

Lining panels formed of thermoplastic sheets cover wall and ceiling areas. Insulation is provided by fiberglass blankets, some of which are part of a drip pan assembly. The drip pan is an assembly which is bolted to structure above the overhead instrument panel to insulate the area and assure drainage. The unit consists of a molded plastic pan with insulation blankets attached. Condensate collected on the outboard side of the drip pan drains thru tubing into the airplane drain system.

The drip pan and LH drain tube

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