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Xiamen Air black box brought to Singapore
Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) spokesman Eric Apolonio said the Aircraft Accident Investigation and Inquiry Board (AAIIB) headed by Rommel Ronda and Renier Baculinao left for Singapore with the aircraft’s black box.
Ted Aljibe/AFP/File

Xiamen Air black box brought to Singapore

Rudy Santos (The Philippine Star) - August 24, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Civil aviation officials investigating last week’s accident involving Xiamen Air at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) brought the passenger plane’s flight data recorder to Singapore yesterday for analysis.

Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) spokesman Eric Apolonio said the Aircraft Accident Investigation and Inquiry Board (AAIIB) headed by Rommel Ronda and Renier Baculinao left for Singapore with the aircraft’s black box.

Apolonio said both officials were tasked by CAAP director general Jim Sydiongco to get results “as soon as possible.”

Apolonio said Singapore officials assured them that it would take a week to decode the plane’s data recorder.

Sydiongco added the combined personnel of the Manila International Airport Authority and CAAP had difficulty in pulling out the 43-ton Chinese plane from the mud.

“First hour is the rescue, second is the investigation and assessment and third is we cannot just pull out the 43 tons of B737-800 plane with some thousands of reserved aviation gas inside… We have to remove it first because a little bit of ignition will blow up the entire operation,” Sydiongco said.

He said civil aviation authorities had a meeting with Xiamen Airlines management on the conduct of the investigation.

Sydiongco added the Xiamen officials gave assurance they will bear the cost of aircraft handling and runway recovering caused by the accident.

Meanwhile, Philippine Airlines (PAL) said it will be issuing certifications to their migrant worker passengers who were among thousands affected by the Xiamen Air accident.

PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said they will issue certifications explaining the delay of their flights was caused by the unfortunate incident blocking the main runway of NAIA.

The entry visas of OFWs bound for Riyadh and Dammam had expired after they were prevented to fly out due to the accident.

The certifications would be addressed to the employers of the OFWs affected by the delayed flights, she said.

“We thank the Civil Aviation Authority of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) for approving the triangulated flight – Manila/Riyadh/Dammam/Manila – thus enabling our kababayans, our OFWs to fly back and resume employment,” Villaluna said.
In view of the recent flight cancelation to Saudi Arabia and due to the closure of the NAIA runway, PAL launched replacement fights the other day to accommodate displaced passengers en route to Riyadh and Dammam.

“PAL sincerely apologizes for the inconvenience resulting from flight cancelations. We seek the kind understanding of our passengers and their families as we carry out the necessary adjustments toward full normalization of flights,” Villaluna said.

On the other hand, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said at least 178 migrant workers affected by the runway mishap had availed themselves of the P5,000 financial assistance.

The DFA had also tasked Philippine embassies and consulates general abroad to make representations if needed to explain to foreign employers that the delay in arrival of their Filipino workers was caused by the runway accident.

Suggestions

Following last week’s accident at the NAIA runway that affected tens and thousands of passengers on cancelled and delayed flights, various sectors stressed the need to improve air transport services.

An infrastructure-oriented think tank said the Danilo Atienza Airbase in Sangley Point, Cavite, could have been a better option for diverted flights during the Xiamen Air incident had the Department of Transportation (DOTr) acted upon proposals to activate or rehabilitate it for general aviation use.

Terry Ridon, convenor of Infrawatch PH and former chair of the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor, said the lack of action on the various airport proposals for an alternative to the single-runway NAIA was tantamount to serious negligence.

“What needs to be made of record is the unacceptable delay that many airport proponents are experiencing in the transport agency. The unsolicited Sangley proposal has been on the table since 2016,” Ridon said. 

“The Bulacan airport proposal has already been approved by the Investment Coordination Committee yet final approval is still wanting before the DOTr,” he added. 

Ridon said the Sangley proposal could have been completed within 12 months at no cost to the government.

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, for his part, suggested the NAIA should be privatized.

Castelo said that allowing the private sector to run the premier gateway would make it more efficient.

He said bureaucracy makes the Manila airport inefficient, as what happened last weekend when a Xiamen Air plane got stuck off the only runway that could accommodate wide-bodied jets.

“We should not allow an accident like that to ever happen again. It embarrassed us before the world. What is saddening and sickening is that a single non-fatal incident paralyzed the whole airport for days, and it took authorities so long to remove the plane,” Castelo said.

By the time the Chinese jet was finally towed away, thousands of departing passengers had jammed the airport and NAIA officials did not know what to do except to blame airlines, Castelo added.

He pointed out that the officials could not even prevent scores of “uncoordinated” flights from adding to the chaos.

Castelo said privatizing NAIA and developing Clark International Airport in Angeles City are the short-term solutions to the problem of congestion at the Manila airport.

“We cannot wait for the construction of a new airport, which will take years to complete. We need solutions in the short term,” he stressed.

Castelo sits in the House of Representatives committee on transportation, which will look into the Xiamen aircraft accident on Sept. 5.

He said one purpose of the inquiry is to determine who should be held financially liable for losses suffered by other airlines, NAIA and passengers.

“We cannot just charge that to experience. Some people should be held liable – the airport authorities or Xiamen Air,” he said.  – Jess Diaz, Pia Lee-Brago, Richmond Mercurio, Rainier Allan Ronda

CIVIL AVIATION AUTHORITY OF THE PHILIPPINES XIAMEN AIR
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