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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Philippine pilots slammed over runway accident


MANILA: Philippine aviation authorities on Tuesday suspended two pilots from budget carrier Cebu Pacific after their plane overshot a runway, saying they should have aborted the landing and failed to evacuate the aircraft which could have exploded.
The plane skidded off the runway in bad weather on June 2, coming to a halt on muddy ground beside the tarmac at the airport in the southern city of Davao.
All 165 people on board escaped unharmed, but angry passengers have criticised the pilots and crew, saying they were given no assistance despite the turmoil inside the plane after the terrifying landing.
Releasing the results of an initial investigation, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) criticised the two pilots for a series of lapses.
The authority's deputy director John Andrews said they should have aborted the landing when they realised the plane was not coming down at the correct angle.
And once the plane was on the ground, the pilots failed to immediately evacuate the passengers, leaving them on board for 15 minutes during which time the aircraft could have erupted in flames.
"In cases like this, you immediately initiate emergency evacuation. You don't know if the plane will explode or if the fuel lines were cut and there will be a fire," Andrews told reporters.
The chief pilot was suspended for six months and barred from serving as captain on a plane for a year, while his co-pilot was suspended for three months.
Cebu Pacific will also be asked to comply with an "action plan" which stresses safety over cost-cutting, Andrews said, adding that shaving down turnaround time between flights could cause mistakes to happen.
"When you speed things up, you sometimes forget something," he said. "We can say Cebu Pacific is safe. We just want to make it more safe."
CAAP officials said the airline could still face additional fines for the damage and losses caused to the airport.
Cebu Pacific said in a statement that it would comply with all the aviation authority's recommendations and would improve its training procedures, putting a new emphasis on safety.
The airline began commercial operations in 1996, attracting customers by offering cut-rate fares to local destinations.
It has expanded operations in recent years, now flying to many major Asian cities. Cebu Pacific boasts that it carries more passengers than any other airline in the Philippines.
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