By Benjie Lim Vergara
FORTY eight international and domestic flights were canceled while seven incoming international flights were diverted to Clark and Cebu International Airports following Thursday’s accident involving a Boeing 737-800 plane of Xiamen Airlines.
Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Ed Monreal said Xiamen Airlines flight MF8667 from China with 157 passengers and crew on board, swerved to the grassy portion of the airport’s runway 06-24 and crashed around 11:55p.m. due to heavy downpour. Except for three passengers who sustained minor injuries, most of the passengers were safe.
The plane’s passengers were immediately evacuated using the aircraft’s emergency chutes and were safely transferred to NAIA Terminal 1. They were provided with blankets and food by the airline’s concern and later brought them to a nearby hotel.
Monreal said the impact of the crash caused the left engine to collapse and be thrown about a hundred meters away from the aircraft.
Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) Director General Captain Jim Sydiongco said the pilot “mis-approached” his first attempt to land because of the heavy downpour. The pilot, which the MIAA did not identify, succeeded on his second attempt, however, the plane swerved to the right shortly after touchdown and ended up at the grassy area.
CAAP Accident Investigation Inquiry Board (AIIB) chief Rainer Baculinao and MIAA officials rushed to the site to assess the situation and coordinated with the airline officials while supervising the recovery and clearing operations.
CAAP spokesman Eric Apolonio said the aviation regulator issued a Notice-to-airmen (Notam) for temporary closure of runway 06-24 following the incident.
As of press time, airport authorities are working to remove the stalled aircraft.
Some of the flights that were canceled due to runway closure are:
From Terminal 1
Etihad Airways EY421 (Manila-Abu Dhabi), Saudia Airlines SV871 (Jeddah-Manila), Hong Kong Air (Hong Kong-Manila), China Airlines (Taipei-Manila).
Philippine Airlines PR453/ PR454 (Manila-Gensan-Manila), PR1845/PR1846 (Manila-Cebu-Manila), PR432 (Manila-Tokyo), PR408 (Manila-Osaka-Kansai), PR438 (Manila-Nagoya).
PAL Express 2P2959 (Manila-Cagaya de Oro).
Cathay Pacific CX908 (Manila-Hong Kong), CX912 (Manila-Hong Kong), CX907 (Manila-Hong Kong), CX906 (Manila-Hong Kong), CX901 (Manila-Hong Kong), CX900 (Manila-Hong Kong).
Cebu Pacific Air flights 5J272 (Manila-Hong Kong), 5J273 (Hong Kong-Manila), 5J5054 (Manila-Hong Kong), 5J5055 (Narita-Manila), 5J929 (Manila-Bangkok), 5J930 (Bangkok-Manila), 5J930 (Bangkok-Manila), 5J110 (Hong Kong-Manila), 5J111 (Hong Kong-Manila), 5J805 (Manila-Singapore), 5J806 (Manila-Singapore). 5J188 (Manila-Incheon), 5J187 (Incheon-Manila), 5J487 (Manila-Bacolod), 5J488 (Bacolod-Manila).
PAL PR105 (San Francisco-Manila), and PR117 (Vancouver-Manila) diverted to Cebu; PR103 (Los Angeles-Manila), PR115 (San Francisco-Manila), PR119 (Toronto-Manila) were diverted to Clark. PR655 (Riyadh-Manila), PR683 (Dammam-Manila) diverted to Bangkok. PR657 (Abu Dhabi-Manila) diverted to Saigon.
Also, Cebu Pacific flights 5J187 (Seoul/Incheon-Manila), and 5J804 (Singapore-Manila) were diverted to Clark.
Monreal said that they are doing their best to out the aircraft from the site as they are having a hard time removing the stuck plane’s front landing gear.
Meanwhile, the aviation regulator chief, Sydiongco, extended apologies to affected passengers because of the delays of extracting the disabled 66-ton plane, which is 50 meters from the center line of the runway, which is obstacle of the runway 06/24, flight cancellations, diversion of flights and flights delays.
He added that the plane’s flight data recorder will reveal the cause of incident.
The MIAA said despite the soft soil which hampered aircraft extraction, it gained slight improvement on the situation.
Monreal said that two cranes hired by MIAA to be utilized for the extraction of the plane were already brought inside the airport complex.
“We already hired a crane that could lift the whole airplane out of the mud and eventually out of the runway,” Monreal added.
Monreal added there are also lifters that will be used to lift the damaged aircraft.
Officials hoped they will able to extract the plane to the 4p.m. deadline, but it was extended to three- hours on the aircraft extraction to secure it from further damage.
However, authorities disclosed that the B737-800 would be cut into smaller pieces if within 48 hours their efforts to remove the stalled aircraft remained futile.
In another development, a certain Chinese passenger of MF8667 identified only as Jessie, recalled that he smelled something burning after the plane has landed, but did not elaborate.