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A lack of professionalism by CAAP officials

That near disaster that happened to Cebu Pacific Airbus (CPA) 320 Flt. No. 5J 971 last Sunday once more reminds us of the woeful state in the aviation industry. Here we are bragging to the world that we have great beaches (I submit we do have a reason to brag about our beaches) stunning dive sites that can beat any tourist spot in the world, but when tourists arrive in our country… they end up seeing our serious lack of infrastructure, most notable amongst them is the state of our so-called International Airports.

I say so-called because anyone could call any airport as international because they cater to some international flights. But in truth, our airport facilities do not even meet international standards. What happened last Sunday evening to the Cebu Pacific Airbus was an accident that still has to be investigated in order to find out what really happened to the CPA Airbus.

If you read the reports the CPA plane skidded off the runway and buried its nose on the soft muddy side of the runway because of the rains affecting Davao at that time. As of this writing, the Airbus was still stuck, putting air operations in Davao International Airport into a standstill.

Blame  CPA?  That’s a no brainer. But there are many other things we ought to be looking at. Last Tuesday morning, I woke up and turned on the TV set to watch ANC with Karen Davila and her guests were Cebu Pacific spokesperson Candice Iyog and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) Deputy Director General Capt. John Andrews. I was stunned when Capt. Andrews showed a photo of the skid marks at touchdown area of the runway, and then he said “The plane should have landed 40 meters in the middle not on the side. This is clear proof that it was pilot error.”

Frankly speaking I was horrified that Capt. Andrews made that revelation on live TV. In my book CAAP officials should refrain from making conclusions when in fact the question why the CPA Airbus ended at the side of the runway is still under investigation? Mind you, this is not the first time that a CAAP official made such a damaging statement.

When DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo’s Piper Seneca crashed last August 18, 2012, a high-ranking CAAP official was already issuing statements to the effect that this crash was caused by pilot error. My dear friend, Capt. Jessup Bahinting was already cold and very dead but still missing in his watery grave when that CAAP blamed the crash on him. Eventually by November, CAAP concluded that the crash was due to pilot error.

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But since Capt. Andrews was not the pilot, the least he could have done is look at the Airbus Blackbox because that’s really where aircraft crash investigators should be looking into in order to determine whether it was pilot error or not. Looking at the skid marks of the runway only tells you that the plane was off course when it touched down. But was it off course due to pilot error or was there a sudden gust of wind that pushed the aircraft off the runway? Capt. Andrews’ remark that it was pilot error even if the investigation of this incident was not even finished yet speaks of a lack of professionalism by a CAAP official. He shouldn’t have made that remark.

I don’t know how many columns that I have written about the need for the Philippines to create a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) because we needed one not just yesterday but years ago! I don’t know why no one in Congress cared to pass this vital legislation wherein the NTSB would be the official investigator of airline, Marine and bus accidents. If I remember right, I wrote about this when the Doña Paz sunk and killed more people than the famous S.S. Titanic.

But as things go today, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) or the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) that regulates public transportation, the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) that regulates the shipping industry and CAAP that regulates the Aviation industry are government agencies known for corruption. Yet when they investigate accidents, they become, judge, jury and executioner of their respective areas of responsibility. We should never allow this to happen again and I dare say for the nth time for Congress to enact an NTSB pronto!

Lastly, 15-years ago when I was still a Director at the Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) I always insisted that the Mactan Cebu International Airport should start planning for a second runway exactly because when an aircraft gets stalled in the middle of the runway, it blocks the whole airport operations. Only Clark International has a dual runway.

It is for this reason why we purchased those “Lifting Bags” in Mactan in case we needed to remove a stuck aircraft from our single runway. Alas no one told CAAP that they could have flown those lifting bags to Davao Airport and help speed up the removal of the aircraft. But I always keep forgetting that we’re in the Philippines were we never ever solve our problems.

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For email responses to this article, write to vsbobita@mo-pzcom.com or vsbobita@gmail.com. His columns can be accessed through www.philstar.com.

 

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