A lesson to learn from budget airliners

A budget airliner crash-landed in bad weather and broke into two in Phuket, yesterday. So far eighty seven people have confirmed to have been killed in the crash.

This is what The Nation reported:

one-to-go-ceashed.jpg

50 Foreigners among 87 killed in Phuket plane crash

Eighty-seven people, 50 of them foreigners, were killed when a budget commercial airliner crashlanded at Phuket Airport in bad weather conditions Sunday afternoon, officials said.

Published on September 17, 2007

 

Forty-three people survived in the first local disaster for lowcost airline industry since its introduction a few years ago.

One Two Go Flight OG 269 lost balance while touching down and skidded off the runway. The MD82 plane slammed into trees and an earth embankment, exploding and breaking in two, witnesses and officials said.

Health Minister Mongkol Na Songkhla said 87 people died and 43 people survived. There were a total of 130 passenger and crew on the plane.

Of the 43 survivors, 15 are Thais and 28 foreigners.

The verification of identities of both the dead and injured were far from complete at press time.

Deputy Transport Minister Sansern Wongchaum earlier said that there were 78 foreigners on board. Tourists from Australia, Austria, Britain, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Sweden and the Netherlands were being treated at main provincial hospitals.

A surviving Thai passenger said the plane “landed hard” and “bounced” and then skidded off the runway. Air Transport Department chief Chiasak Angkauwan said, “the airplane requested to land but due to the weather in Phuket strong wind and heavy rain maybe the pilot did not see the runway clearly.”

One survivor told of a fast drop in altitude by the airplane and sudden brief jerk upward. He said they plane then crashlanded and exploded. He saw several fellow passengers on fire.

It was not immediately clear if the pilot, who was reportedly killed, was attempting to pull the aircraft up in the last minute when it crashlanded. He had reportedly been allowed to circle the airport to wait for improvement in weather conditions.

An official at the Phuket Airport control tower, who asked not to be named, said the pilot had been told of bad weather conditions, especially very strong winds. Shortly before the illfated flight crashlanded, another lowcost airliner originating from Hong Kong had successfully touched down, he said.

Officials said victims could have died on impact, or from suffocation or fire resulting from explosions. According to an initial account, the plane’s fuselage was torn open in the accident, some of the survivors were those thrown out through the opening.

Flight OG 269, approached the Phuket airport at about 3.40pm from Bangkok. Phuket had earlier been hit by heavy rains.

Eyewitnesses said the impact of the crash caused the plane to break in two and they heard loud explosions.

Rescue teams and navy personnel were involved in the rescue operation. Bodies were piled up in the smouldering wreckage. All flights in and out of the Phuket airport have been cancelled.

An Irish tourist, identifying himself only as “John”, said he was on board the flight. He and his friend survived with bruises all over their bodies.

“We sat on the 18th row. The weather was real bad and there were lots of unusual noises during the landing. Something was obviously wrong [during the landing],” he said. He and his friend escaped through the emergency door.

Meanwhile Transportation Minister Thira Haochareon said Phuket International Airport was temporary closed after the crash. He said the body of the aircraft hit the runway and was on fire. The air traffic control source said the aircraft’s right wing made contact with the runway at the initial stage of the accident.

MacDonnel Douglas MD82 has a passenger capacity of 175 seats, with flight ceiling of 37,000 feet and flight distance of 3,500 kilometres.

AFP reported that the accident was witnessed from the sky. It said Marine Keisel, from Paris, was aboard a plane behind the one that crashed and saw the accident happen.

“When the plane landed it caught fire,” she told AFP at Phuket airport. “We could see the fire coming out of it. It was chaos inside my plane.”

Authorities say they will not make any assumption regarding the cause of the tragedy until investigation is completed, although bad weather was obviously a problem at the airport over the weekend. An American pilot who landed just prior to the One Two Go plane reportedly told CNN that the landing was one of the toughest he had ever undertaken – indicating that the weather conditions were severe.

Like several other airlines, One Two Go has reportedly undergone manpower changes. The boss of One Two Go and Orient Thai budget airlines, Udom Tantisprongchai, is said to have replaced several of his Western and Thai pilots – allegedly to cut costs and reduce the chance of work disputes _ with crews with Indonesian and Philippine pilots.

However, authorities insisted it was too soon to presume anything, including whether human errors played a part in the tragedy.

Certain reports said the pilot was given permission to abort the landing in the final minutes.

Communications between the pilot and the air traffic controller and their judgements _ information contained in the black box _ could shed some light on the tragedy. Some aviation sources said an instruction or decision to land in Krabi could have been taken in extreme weather conditions.

Last night a swarm of media had descended on the office of One Two Go, near the intersection of Asoke and Sukhumvit. With the high death toll and the fact that it took place in the heart of Thailand’s tourism industry, the issue of whether or not there were human errors involved could become hot up very soon, the aviation sources said.

*****************

 

These are the other reports about the ill fated flight in The Nation too. Survivors reported an unusual high speed landing approach just before the crash.

The maintenance and operation of budget airliners have been doubtful. Many believed that to keep the cost of operations low, these airliners skimmed on maintenance and deploy renegade operating procedures such as landing approaches, to save marginal costs, which compounded will translate to profits.

airasia-ditched.jpg

AirAsia too was not spared of these related problems, although unreported in the mainstream media. During their B737 operations, they have had problems such as tire blow-out upon landing and have disrupted operations in the airport. These uncanny poor records are invariably much different from the national carrier Malaysia Airlines’s, even though Malaysia Airlines have operated almost three times larger fleet of the same type with a much bigger network for four times longer. AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes admitted they deploy unconventional methods, including landing approach procedures.

 airasia-skidded-ii.jpg

Its unimaginable if lives were lost because of the greed to make money. To have unscrupulous practices at the expense of travelers’ lives is really low. Tragedy is forever one experience we should avoid.

God help us all!

*An update. I was cautioned by one of my readers on this Bernama report dated 28 June 2007

Govt Urged To Monitor AirAsia’s Flight Safety

June 28, 2007 20:32 PM E-mail this news to a friend Printable version of this news

KUALA LUMPUR, June 28 (Bernama) — A government backbencher today expressed doubt over the safety of AirAsia flights and urged the government to monitor the situation.

In making the call, Datuk Ronald Kiandee (BN-Beluran) said he was concerned over the safety of the low-cost carrier’s flights especially in servicing the rural areas.

For example, he said, two AirAsia aircraft had landed at the Sandakan Airport although their Instrument Landing System was not functioning for several hours at the end of last year.

Recently, a plane from the same company en-route to Kota Kinabalu, had to turn back, he said when debating the Carriage By Air (Amendment) Bill 2007 in the Dewan Rakyat.

In reply, Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Azlan Sultan Abu Bakar said the ministry viewed the matter seriously and would make recommendations to tackle it.

“The ministry has to deeply study the proposal to ensure that in the future, airline operators in the country can afford to handle their flight systems well both domestically and internationally,” he said when winding up the debate.

He said the government had recently decided for Malaysia Airlines (MAS), through its subsidiary MAS Wings, to take over the rural air service in Sabah and Sarawak.

Replying to Datuk Paduka Badruddin Amiruddin (BN-Jerai) on compensation that could be claimed by air passengers, Tengku Azlan said the same rate applies to all airline companies including low-cost carriers.

On the 1999 Montreal Convention raised by Datuk Razali Ismail (BN-Kuala Terengganu), he said Malaysia adopted the convention to create a uniformity in air transport service and to improve the compensation claim system.

The Dewan Rakyat later passed the Bill. Also passed was the Pathology Laboratory Bill 2007.

— BERNAMA

Published in: on September 17, 2007 at 09:43  Comments (12)  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://bigdogdotcom.wordpress.com/2007/09/17/will-airasia-become-like-this-too/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. That kind of ‘small budget safety’ is not foreign to us. Just re-look at what an MP brought to the attention of the August House in June recently.

    http://www.bernama.com/aviation_news/news.php?id=270227&lang=en

    I quote:
    KUALA LUMPUR, June 28 (Bernama) — A government backbencher today expressed doubt over the safety of AirAsia flights and urged the government to monitor the situation.

    In making the call, Datuk Ronald Kiandee (BN-Beluran) said he was concerned over the safety of the low-cost carrier’s flights especially in servicing the rural areas.

    For example, he said, two AirAsia aircraft had landed at the Sandakan Airport although their Instrument Landing System was not functioning for several hours at the end of last year.

    Recently, a plane from the same company en-route to Kota Kinabalu, had to turn back, he said when debating the Carriage By Air (Amendment) Bill 2007 in the Dewan Rakyat.”
    -end quote.

    Thanks for the story. I have already updated my article with this 🙂

  2. These days people are more impress with the ability to make money by short circuiting business process and even doing away with essential speding. That is the genius they admire.

    They’ll never believe us till incidents like Tanjung Kupang or Tawau happens.

  3. I think Ronald Kiandee got the wrong end of the stick.Not all budget airlines are unsafe and not all 5 star airlines are safe.Anyone who think so is fooling himself and completely ignorant of the aviation industry standard practices and procedures.

    A study by Boeing attributed as high as 70% of most air crashes due to flight crew error.Very few crashes were due to poor maintenance.The rate for structural and other mechanical failure not due to poor maintenance was higher.Although older aircraft needs more maintenance, it doesn’t mean it is unsafe.There were many crashes involving much younger aircrafts and owned by normal airlines.Most air crashes happened during take-off and landing, which undoubtedly point to human error and possibly weather as the contributing factor.

    I am a retired businessman.In the past, my business took me all over the world.I clocked between 80,000 to 100,000 miles average a year.I have flown from the smallest aircraft to the biggest and most luxurious jetplane.I have been in helicopters, single engine Cessna, DC 3 with holes in the belly,25-year old Boeing 707 and most other commercial aircrafts.I have been on an aircraft struck by lighting on a landing approach in a thunderstorm.I have been on aircraft that people like Ronald Kiandee wouldn’t set foot in.To be honest, I also have my fear, I don’t like helicopters.

    The problem with most of our elected representatives, they don’t do their homework and for nothing better to say in Parliment they shoot off their mouth and insulted themselves for making stupid comments.I have flown with Air Asia few times and found nothing wrong with them.You may not be as pampered as if you are on MAS, but you get what you paid for.

    I know our MPs only fly with MAS 1st Class.Can somebody ask Ronald Kiandee(kampong boy turned snob)whether he has flown with Air Asia?

  4. This is not about budget airliners per se. The questions raised here, how come budget airliners, being very new (‘toddler’ co), have had so much problems with safeties, tyre-blow-out upon landings, skidding off runaways etc etc etc. Now a budget airliner crashed and 89 ppl so far died!

    Until recently, there was no provision for disabled passengers. Should disabled passengers, especially on wheelchairs be discriminated?

    Compared to premium airliners, which operate bigger fleet, longer range and bigger variables, why are the budget airliners issues so apparent? Has safety elements in budget airlines being significantly compromised, so that they can keep costs relatively ‘low’ (thus they make more money)?

    This article is spot on. Example Malaysia Airlines, which operates 39 B737s in longer regional routes since 1988, have little or significantly lesser issues compared to AirAsia’s 15, since their operations 5 years ago.

    The issued raised in this article and the arguments followed are very interesting in the sense that more Malaysian public now realised that their safety of airtravel have been significantly ‘compromised’, with AirAsia’s operations in this country.

    Fly AirAsia? I strongly believe “Now, NOT everyone can fly!”

  5. Hantu Laut wrote:
    I think Ronald Kiandee got the wrong end of the stick.Not all budget airlines are unsafe and not all 5 star airlines are safe.Anyone who think so is fooling himself and completely ignorant of the aviation industry standard practices and procedures.
    *****************************************************
    Are you saying that until one Air Asia plane crashes due to the malfunction of its Instrument Landing System only then we say the MP is not stupid?

    Wow, I do admire your business acumen, you are really a risk-taker to the extreme;-)

  6. Its not fair for hantu laut to downplay the issue raised by Ronald Kiandee and rubbish him merely based on his assumptions.

    Although he claims he has extensive flying experiance, he forgot that 30% factor due to mechanical failure is a significant number in aviation. There is no room for such numbers in aviation. Safety considertions must not only 100% sure but with lots of buffer.

    The nature of aviation is that even that smaller possibility of 30% chance must not even be taken lightly. When some failure occur up in the sky, you can’t pullover by any roadside to fix it. ANy mishaps involving airline is fatal and involves lot of lifes. Let alone the complicated process of rsolving the post crash issues.

    Budget airline are fighting on such wafer thin profit margin. Are we assured that budget airline like Airasia does not compromised safety at the expense of cost? Are we assured that safety cost is not even part of their variable for cost reduction?

    The 3 incidents in a year at Kota Kinabalu airport by Airasia is very significant and worrisome. Was it left unnoticed? What more is hushed up?

    I guess I am not such a rish taker like hantu laut. He can go ahead and take his chance on his own life. But not the life of others.

  7. It’s not about rubbishing the MP,many of our MPs waste parlimentray time talking about trivial issues.Not all budget airlines are badly maintained.Although, they may operate on wafer thin profit,some of them make more money than normal airlines because they have ‘economies of scale’.Their costs go down due to the bigger volume of passengers.The normal airlines overtaxed their passengers and end up with many empty seats which naturally bring down their revenue.

    I don’t travel much nowadays,assuming you spend an average of 2-3 times a week with MAS, you would certainly encounter some delays due to technical or mechanical problems.MAS had its fair share of blowed out tyres and burned out engine.Many of these incidents were not reported in the media as MAS is a government-backed airline, only the passengers on the aircraft knew and probably spread it by word of mouth.I was one such passenger that experience an engine blow out on MAS Airbus many years ago.There was nothing about it in the media.

    I am not sure I understand what fazilogic mean by Air Asia plane had a malfunction of its Instrument Landing System at Sandakan airport.Most ILS are ground based instrument that guide aircraft on a landing approach in severe weather conditions and reduced visibility due to fog or rain.ILS is not installed on a plane.I believe S’kan airport might not have ILS.

    Again your smart MP didn’t do his homework.

  8. Hantu Laut: I am not sure I understand what fazilogic mean by Air Asia plane had a malfunction of its Instrument Landing System at Sandakan airport.Most ILS are ground based instrument that guide aircraft on a landing approach in severe weather conditions and reduced visibility due to fog or rain.ILS is not installed on a plane.I believe S’kan airport might not have ILS.
    ********************************************************
    I stand corrected. May be the word malfunction is not correct to substitute ‘not functioning’ as per what is used in the Bernama report.

    Even if the ILS was meant to be airport-based instead of on the plane, that means the Air Asia planes landed on the airport when the airport was in not in its optimum safety level.

    I remember around that time when some friends aboard on separate MAS planes who were either had their flights delayed and some had theirs re-routed to Tawau airports. But that particular day, several Air Asia flights continued to land in S’kan.

    Meaning to say Air Asia has compromised safety in exchange for schedule-compliant standard…. or should we say ringgit-inflow standard?

  9. […] Will AirAsia become like this too? […]

  10. […] When AirAsia was listed a few years back, they issued 880 million shares of 10 sen each and they did not really have assets except probably a couple of tables and chairs. They did not own any aircraft as all of these B737s then were just leased. They probably used their over glorified ‘travel agency business model’ to illustrate ability to make money on other peoples’ money, to qualify for listing. In the past, Air Asia have had several mini mishaps, that were not reported in mainstream media. Even though Malaysia Airlines operate the same B737s (probably older), they did not get as many as Air Asia’s tire blow-outs or skidded on runaways during take offs or landings. […]

  11. to hantu laut,dont just simply write because u think u are right. Yb Kiandee is correct when making his concern known. i’m in aviation industry and i know how airasia maintain their aircraft. u can ask their engineer. it’s not as good as u see. just the tragidy is not there yet. things that can go wrong may go wrong

  12. […] been indirectly sponsored by various government’s promotional programs. The concessions even include safety record, which was below the  Malaysian aviation industry […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: