PH grounds Lionair fleet after tragic medevac plane crash

Marje Pelayo
Wreckage of the Lionair plane that exploded on NAIA’s Runway 24 on March 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has recovered the cockpit voice record of the Lionair plane that burst into flames along Runway 24 at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on Sunday night (March 29).

The device is expected to help reveal what could have caused the incident which killed all eight persons — a Canadian, an American, and six Filipinos— onboard.

“Makakatulong ito kasi malalaman natin ang (This will help us find out the) last few minutes and seconds what really are the conversations between the tower and the pilot inside the cockpit,” noted CAAP Spokesperson Eric Apolonio.

Following the tragic flight, CAAP ordered the suspension of the operations of the entire Lionair fleet.

The agency refused to name the model of the doomed aircraft though reports said it was a West Wind 24 series.

Aside from the cockpit voice recorder, authorities are investigating the wreckage of the aircraft in a private hangar which could also help uncover the reason behind the tragedy.

The medical evacuation plane, bound for Haneda in Japan, was supposed to transport a Canadian patient accompanied by a companion, a doctor and a nurse, and four other flight crew.

Initial reports said the aircraft caught fire even before it took off.

“Based on the reports of the Manila Tower they were alarmed that for such the size of the aircraft, it took them sometime to take off. (They should have taken off) within the time of their take-off roll,” explained CAAP Deputy Director General Capt. Don Mendoza.

“They were alarmed why it wasn’t ascending yet, so they were readying the hotline just in case whatever happens, they would call the fire and rescue [team],” Mendoza added.

The same aircraft delivered medical supplies to Iloilo City the day before the accident.

The pilots, CAAP said, were licensed and well-trained.

The agency said the investigation may take months as they have to send the cockpit voice recorder abroad for decoding by experts.

In September last year, a Lionair aircraft also crashed in Pansol, Laguna which left nine people dead. – MNP (with details from Joan Nano)

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