x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Golfer Padraig Harrington recounts Etihad take-off scare

Harrington was on Etihad Airways flight EY045 to Dublin as it taxied down the runway prior to take-off on January 30, when the passengers felt a sharp jolt and then the aircraft, with more than 200 people on board, came to a lurching halt.

Irish golfer Padraig Harrington says he was unaware of the severity of a take-off scare after his plane shook and then stopped suddenly on the runway at Abu Dhabi 10 days ago.

Harrington was on Etihad Airways flight EY045 to Dublin as it taxied down the runway prior to take-off on January 30, when the passengers felt a sharp jolt and then the aircraft, with more than 200 people on board, came to a lurching halt.

The plane had veered off its course in dense fog and damaged tarmac lights on the southbound runway of the Abu Dhabi International Airport.

"We didn't know anything happened," said Harrington, who was seated in business class with his caddie. "It was a very foggy night. They aborted take-off."

It wasn't until the following day that the golfer discovered the magnitude of the mishap.

"We just went back to the lounge, and it was only the next day they said there was some damage to the runway," Harrington said on Wednesday as he prepared for Thursday's start of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am tournament.

"We assumed that there was a puncture to one of the tyres. They weren't exactly telling people.

"It was only the next day that somebody who recognised me decided to tell me the story that they'd taken out a few lights on the runway, so obviously it had somehow veered."

Harrington downplayed the scare, saying it wouldn't have been such a big deal if a golf writer hadn't been on the same flight.

"It really wasn't as bad an experience as it turned out," he said. "You travel with Karl McGinty and something is going to go wrong. Isn't it like that Chinese curse -- May your life be interesting."

Harrington was returning home after competing in the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. Other international golfers who had been in town for the event were not affected by the delays.

Lee Westwood and Luke Donald both said on Twitter they had left without trouble, with Donald tweeting yesterday evening: "Luckily I left from Dubai. Back in the US now…".

Harrington’s flight eventually left for Dublin 12 hours late. The 208 passengers and crew on the Airbus A330-200 disembarked and were sent to nearby hotels. No-one was injured in the incident.

The damage to the lights caused a six-hour shutdown of the southbound runway, and the north runway handled all flight departure and arrivals until the south runway resumed normal operation at 9.10am after the completion of safety checks.

At least 35 flights were cancelled, including 11 Etihad flights, and 150 were delayed by more than an hour, according to flightstats.com.

Etihad apologised to passengers who had been inconvenienced and said it had done everything possible to help those affected.

* With staff