(CNN) – An Ethiopian Airlines plane mistakenly landed at an unopened airport still under construction in Zambia, the airline confirmed on Monday.
The flight, a cargo service traveling from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Ndola, Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe Airport, landed at Zambia’s new Copperbelt International Airport, which has yet to be opened, on Sunday, the airline said in a statement.
The flight, ET 3891, made a safe landing at the new airport, Ethiopian Airlines added.
Copperbelt International Airport is approximately 13 miles from Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe Airport by car.
Permanent Secretary of the Transport Ministry, Misheck Lungu, told AFP news agency that the pilot had landed at the unopened airport “by mistake.”
“When he was about to land, he was communicating with the radar and they said, ‘We can’t see you,'” Lungu told AFP.
“So he used his eyesight because he had no control and landed at an airport that was still under construction.”
Ethiopian Airlines said: “Although the details of the incident are being investigated in coordination with the Zambian aeronautical authorities, the fact that a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) was issued regarding the construction of the new airport, which has the same Runway heading orientation with the existing one and the proximity between the two airports may have contributed to the incident. ”
“As always, Ethiopian Airlines takes flight safety very seriously and treats it as the highest priority and will accordingly take all necessary corrective and preventive measures in accordance with the investigation findings,” the statement added.
The new airport was due to be completed in October 2020, according to Zambia Airports Corporation Limited (ZACL), which manages the country’s international airports. But construction was delayed due to the pandemic, and the installation should be completed this year, ZACL told CNN.
The new airport where the plane landed has a runway that is completely complete, ZACL added, and, as of last month, the rest of the facility is at least 88% complete.
ZACL said that the new airport, which would initially be called Copperbelt International Airport, will now adopt the name of the existing one, Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe Airport, and that the original site will revert to its original name of Ndola International Airport and is no longer used for commercial flights.