Cebu Pacific pilots, crew investigated in crash at Philippines' Davao airport
Staff of Philippine budget carrier accused of incompetence after delay in evacuating aircraft
Philippine aviation authorities said yesterday they were investigating Cebu Pacific pilots and crew who waited 15 minutes before deploying emergency slides to evacuate passengers from a plane that overshot the runway and landed on its nose at Davao.
None of the 165 passengers was injured, but some complained about the lengthy delay in attempting to get them off the crippled plane. One critic blamed an inept crew who "froze" during the emergency.
The rough landing in stormy weather on Sunday evening forced the closure of Davao International Airport, in the southern Philippines, while the Airbus A320-200 remained stuck on the runway. The Civil Aviation Authority's deputy director-general, John Andrews, said pilot error probably caused the accident.
"Everyone panicked. Women and children were screaming," passenger Percival Jacones told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. He said the cabin crew were stunned and it was 15 minutes before the captain came out of the cockpit to address the passengers.
Davao Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said airport management was late in alerting city emergency services about the landing and denied quick access to the passengers. She said an airport security guard phoned 911 to report the accident. Andrews said the pilots and cabin crew had been grounded pending the results of the aviation authority's investigation. He said the pilots violated the standard operating procedure by not ordering an immediate evacuation of the aircraft.
Cebu Pacific president Lance Gokongwei apologised, but also defended the crew's action.
"In this situation, we may not have handled all issues perfectly, but we can learn from this experience," Gokongwei told the ABS-CBN television channel.
Cebu Pacific said a plane had "veered off to the right side" of the Davao airport's runway during heavy rains. The aircraft had departed from Manila.
Cebu Pacific is the Philippines' largest low-cost carrier. It operates 33 Airbus planes, as well as eight ATRs, and also flies on regional routes.
A similar accident occurred in 2011, when a Cebu Pacific plane overshot the runway in Puerto Princesa, in the Philippines' western province of Palawan. There were no casualties.
The Ateneo de Davao University, which had members aboard Sunday's flight, published an open letter saying it will boycott the airline to protest "the insensitivity and ineptness" of the crew.
"Your personnel lack training for an emergency situation. They froze. They did not know what to do. They must be able to put the welfare of the passengers before their own," said university president Joel Tabora.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg