EDITORIAL - Death planes
(The Philippine Star) - March 31, 2020 - 12:00am

Accidents happen, but there are ways of minimizing the risks – especially if there is a precedent that must be avoided. On Sept. 1 last year, a Beechcraft air ambulance operated by the Philippine firm Lionair Inc. was seen emitting smoke before it plummeted into a resort in Calamba, Laguna. All nine on board, including the flight crew and the New Zealander patient who was being evacuated from Dipolog to Manila, died in the crash.

Even before probers can tell the country the reason for the crash, another Lionair plane burst into flames last Sunday night, killing all eight people on board including the three flight crew, two doctors, a nurse and the Canadian patient. Officials of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said Lionair’s West Wing jet was rolling down Runway 24 of the NAIA on its way to Tokyo’s Haneda airport when it burst into flames before it could lift off.

The jet had previously been chartered by the Department of Health to deliver medical supplies around the country amid the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. It was evacuating the patient to Tokyo when tragedy struck.

With two air ambulances of the same company crashing within less than seven months, authorities grounded the entire fleet of Lionair. The company and its owner Archibald Po had figured in another controversy during the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, over the sale of two second-hand helicopters allegedly owned by her husband Mike Arroyo at brand-new prices to the Philippine National Police. The former first gentleman, who denied ownership of the helicopters, is facing trial before the Sandiganbayan for the deal, with Po among the witnesses against him.

Now Lionair is facing yet another controversy, this time over the airworthiness of its fleet. CAAP officials claimed the Westwind jet was deemed airworthy, but this will have to be established in an independent investigation. Probers must also come out with the results of the probe on the Beechcraft crash in Laguna. Seventeen lives have been lost so far. Without a credible probe, there could be no end to these tragedies.

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