Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Air crash probe result out soon

The official result of the investigation into the One-Two-Go plane crash will be finished by the end of the month, Department of Civil Aviation deputy director-general Wuthichai Singhamanee said yesterday.

Mr Wuthichai, who heads the national sub-committee investigating air accidents in Thailand, admitted he was under pressure from international aviation organisations and embassies representing foreigners who died in the crash 10 months ago.

Flight OG269 crashed on Sept 16 last year in strong winds and heavy rain while attempting to land at Phuket airport, leaving 89 dead and 41 injured.

The investigation will be given priority and will be wrapped up this month, said Mr Wuthichai. The findings will be forwarded to the national committee on air accidents, chaired by Chaisawasd Kittipornpaiboon, the permanent secretary for the Transport Ministry.

Parties whose actions or inactions contributed to the crash will be punished under aviation laws, he added.

Families of the victims are preparing to sue the airline in the United States for compensation of up to US$400 million (about 13.2 billion baht).

Mr Wuthichai said investigators were gathering information from the US National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) and other agencies. The results will be given to the sub-committee for analysis.

A transport ministry source said preliminary investigations indicated the aircraft was not the primary cause of the accident. An examination of pieces of the aircraft by the NTSB suggested it had functioned normally prior to the crash. The force of the wind during the landing reportedly only had a minimal impact on the aircraft.

The source said the main problem seemed to stem from pilot error. The pilot was Indonesian Arief Mulyadi, 56, who died in the crash. It is possible the airline may be at fault as well.

The source also referred to a report by the Department of Civil Aviation, which sent officials to observe the working environment inside the cockpits of the One-Two-Go fleet during flights.

The officials found most of the pilots were foreign nationals and they were under the impression that ''shortcomings'' existed in terms of the cooperation between the pilot and the co-pilots.

Mr Wuthichai said that while pilot error may be a factor, other possibilities such as the weather or a problem with the aircraft could not be ruled out.

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