Damaged Cebu PAcific Air plane lifted from runway 2 days after incident in Philippines

Expert says cause of skidding plane after landing may have been pilot error

Gulf News

Manila: A company has apologised after the extraction of its passenger jet two days after it overshot the runway of an airport in the southern Philippines during a storm last Sunday, sources said.

The A-320 plane of Cebu Pacific Air was moved to a holding area of the old terminal of the Davao International Airport. Its nose landing gear was lifted from the ground of the runway and secured on a flatbed truck. “These measures are international practices and should enable us to tow the aircraft so runway operations can resume,” said Cebu Pacific, adding that a team of experts from Singapore have been in charge of the procedure.

The plane’s left engine was severely damaged, its nose wheel collapsed, but its landing gear was intact, said Cebu Pacific.

But a team of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, the Aircraft Accident Investigation and Inquiry Board which examined the aircraft at noon said the plane’s two engines were severely damaged.

The damaged plane could “no longer be salvageable,” said CAAP deputy director general John Andrews.

Thousands stranded

Meanwhile, more than 3,000 people were stranded and 80 flights cancelled at the airport since the incident last Sunday.

After days of being criticised for not taking care of its stranded passengers, Cebu Pacific arranged 15 extra flights to nearby General Santos to re-accommodate affected passengers. The company provided stranded passengers with meals, transfers and hotel accommodation.

Cebu Pacific also gave passengers options including re-booking, a full refund and a full travel fund.

Andrews, of CAPP, insisted that pilot error was the cause of the incident,

“Upon touchdown, the plane was facing a strong crosswind at 12 knots from the northeast, with gustiness at 12 knows, and moderate to heavy winds. The pilot should have aligned the plane along the runway’s centreline. But the pilots failed to do this [and] the plane skidded until it exited the runway proper,” said Andrews.

At the same time, two lawmakers at the House of Representatives called for an investigation.

Congresswoman Mylene Garcia-Albano said a passenger of the ill-fated plane was quoted as saying that the runway lights went out shortly after the plane landed during heavy rains and skidded off the runway.

Congressman Karlo Alexei Nograles called for an investigation on the alleged ineptness of the plane’s crew when the incident happened.

Passengers claimed that when the plane skidded to a stop, the emergency exit doors were not opened immediately. The passengers also alleged the flight crew, including the pilot, panicked instead of helping the passengers calm down, complained Nograles.

In response to critics, Cebu Pacific chief executive officer Lance Gokongwei said: “I think the most important thing is that the 165 passengers on board all disembarked safely.”

The passengers exited through emergency slides, a precautionary kind of evacuation, he explained.

“We do not know exactly what caused the airplane to swerve, but we are cooperating with investigators,” said Cebu Pacific spokesperson Candice Iyog.

All 165 passengers, including pilot Captain Antonio Roel Oropesa and co-pilot Captain Edwin Perello and four crewmen survived the incident.

Davao International Airport is designed for two million passengers annually.