A passenger on board an Air Koryo flight which on Friday conducted an emergency landing in Shenyang, China, told NK News he thought he “was going to die” as a result of a fire which caused its diversion from Beijing.
“I thought I was going to die as the flight was dropping,” said the source, referring to a rapid descent which flight tracking data shows saw the Russian-manufactured plane to lowering 9,000 feet in just five minutes.
“A lady was crying…(but) the North Koreans did their best to maintain a cheery/confident outlook,” the source continued, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of talking to media on the issue.
And during the descent, oxygen masks were lowered from the plane’s ceiling, though “some of the North Koreans did not put them on – perhaps to reassure us”.
While “smoke filled the cabin,” cabin crew provided no information to passengers about what was going on or the pending diversion of the plane from Beijing to Shenyang for its emergency landing.
Upon landing in Shenyang, Air Koryo staff told the roughly 50% load of passengers they would not be able to offer much help in getting people to the Chinese capital.
“What happened at the end was so North Korean. No information, no assurances. (The airline) could not reach Pyongyang and (cabin crew) couldn’t make decisions,” the source continued. “We were left to take care of ourselves”.
“Basically we were told to get our (own) tickets or wait for the Air Koryo staff to see what they could do for us. But they did not give us much confidence that they could do much, and people were worried about connections.”
The airline did not reveal to passengers the cause of the fire, the source said.
The Air Koryo plane can be seen on tracking website Flightradar24 following its scheduled path to Beijing before continuing north to Shenyang and landing at around 9:50 am Korea Standard Time (KST).
The plane was Air Koryo’s Tupolev TU204-300 P-632 jet, one of two TU204’s that regularly conduct flights from Pyongyang to Beijing and subsequent return flights. Air Koryo’s scheduled Pyongyang – Beijing routes are the JS151 and JS152 return flights as well as the JS251 and JS252 return flights.
According to tracking data, the P-632 plane reached its top altitude of 29,925 ft at 9:25am KST before steadily decreasing to around 15,000 ft in just over 10 minutes. It then dropped rapidly to 6,000 ft within 5 minutes and subsequently landed at around 9:50am.
The P-632 is one of Air Koryo’s most active jets and last successfully completed the JS251 and JS252 flights between Pyongyang and Beijing on July 21. Not including Friday’s failed flight, the P-632 had flown 18 times in July so far.
Main picture: Wikimedia Commons