CAAP suspends 2 Cebu Pacific pilots over Davao accident
Rudy Santos (The Philippine Star) - June 26, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) suspended the two pilots of the Cebu Pacific flight after pilot error was blamed for the aircraft missing the runway of the Davao International Airport while landing in a thunderstorm last June 2.

The accident resulted in the closure of the terminal for two days.

Capt. John Andrews, CAAP deputy director general, told a press conference yesterday that Capt. Ruel Oropesa was suspended for six months while his first officer Edwin Perello was suspended for three months.

Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Abaya also attended the press briefing.

Oropesa and Perello were the pilots of Cebu Pacific flight 5J 971, with 165 passengers on board, that overshot the Davao runway.

The Airbus 320 jet missed runway 23 upon landing in Davao City and reportedly skidded off the runway and veered to the right side toward a grassy portion in front of the main terminal.

All 165 passengers, including pilots Oropesa and co-pilot Perello and four crewmembers, were not hurt. But the runway was closed and reopened only two days later when the damaged aircraft was removed.

Hundreds of passengers were stranded and the airline companies were forced to transfer the passengers to the Gen. Santos City airport for their flights back to Manila and other destinations.

Andrews said Oropesa would serve the six months suspension upon receipt of the order.

After six months he must comply with requirements for the reinstatement of his Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) but he will only be allowed to serve as second in command for one year.

Perello was suspended for three months subject to his compliance with the requirements for the reinstatement of his Commercial Pilot License (CPL) after he violated provisions on emergency evacuation demonstration and cockpit checklist procedure.

The CAAP said Oropesa and Perello failed to declared emergency in accordance with civil air regulations relating to evacuation of passengers during the ensuing emergency.

“Instead of continuing its approach, the pilots should have gone around or executed a mis-approach and made another try at landing when they saw that rain had blocked their vision,” Andrews said.

The CAAP based its decision on the finding of the Oversight and Regulatory Board (ORB), which was especially created for the first time to look into the circumstances of the accident.

Andrews said CAAP is requiring Cebu Pacific to comply with its corrective action plans to prevent a repeat of the incident that forced the closure of the Davao International Airport resulting to P3 million in foregone revenues on the part of the government.

The evaluation must be completed not later than July 31 and findings of any continuing systematic failure during the sampling exercise will result to suspension of Cebu Pacific operations.

To promote safer and effective operation, Cebu Pacific should reassess its aircraft turn-around time policy to 45 minutes instead of only 30 minutes.

Unrestricted access must be extended to all properly identified CAAP flight inspectors who are tasked to conduct heightened surveillance or monitoring of the performance of flight crews and operations starting July 1.

Andrews said CAAP remains steadfast in the pursuit of their mandate of making air transport as safe as possible.

He said that CAAP had instructed air traffic controllers not to allow take off and landing during zero visibility conditions.

The four cabin crewmembers were not sanctioned because according to Andrews, they were waiting for the evacuation command from the pilots but it never came.

Meanwhile, Cebu Pacific said in a statement that the airline’s safety is always the highest priority.

“We aim to provide the safest airline service possible for the millions of passengers who travel with us every year.”

Further to the CAAP’s recommendations, CEB commenced additional initiatives, including the enhancement of the airline’s current training curriculum to include additional focus on wet runway landings, “go-arounds,” specific training for inclement weather and non-precision approaches.

An independent review of Cebu Pacific flight operation systems and processes by Airbus Industries will be held. Airbus will deploy a team of Safety, Flight Operations and Human Factor experts to Manila for this review. – With Lawrence Agcaoili

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