MANILATransportation Secretary Arthur Tugade on Wednesday said transport officials did the best they could to remove a stalled airplane at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), even as he apologized for the inconvenience it caused to thousands of travelers and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), who were stranded for days due to the incident.
In a Senate hearing, Tugade said the regrettable incident involving Xiamen Airlines Boeing 737-800 was neither of their own liking nor of their own making.
Xiamen Air Flight MF8667 veered off NAIA's main runway during landing at around 11:55 p.m. on August 16, losing its landing gear and left engine in the process.
It took aviation authorities 36 hours before the stalled plane was removed from the main runway.
The incident resulted in the cancellation of hundreds of flights during its extraction, as well as additional flights, even after the runway was cleared due to the domino effect of earlier cancellations.
I am deeply sorry for the inconveniences caused by the incident. I apologize to all our kababayans who were looking forward to a fun holiday. I apologize to our OFWs who missed their flights," Tugade said.
However, Tugade believed that authorities responded to the situation in a reasonable time.
We did what had to be done. We did our best given the circumstances, he said.
The Cabinet official pointed out that besides the rains, wind and muddy terrain, authorities had to carefully remove four tons of unused fuel that might explode with the wrong move.
They also had to rent a crane, which took three hours to set up and another three hours to demobilize, to lift the huge plane off the runway.
Tugade said what happened at NAIA is not a unique incident, and the 36 hours it took them to extract the downed aircraft was a reasonable time
He cited a similar incident in Thailand that took authorities four days to extract the aircraft, and a similar one in Nepal, which took two days.
Tugade also noted that an incident in the United States involving a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 took authorities 24 hours to clear.
It took us 36 hours. I won't say fast enough, but I'd like to believe that it was a reasonable time given the circumstances, he said.
"We are not here to justify what happened. We are here to say that these things do happen. It was an accident no one wanted and we responded as fast as we could. We tried to minimize the inconveniences the way we could," Tugade said.
Still, Tugade said the NAIA runway incident served as an eye-opener to airport authorities.
While the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) has highly-trained personnel and is properly equipped with the recommended equipment to deal with emergencies, he said the incident made them consider purchasing a microscopic crane to extract a stalled aircraft.
Tugade also recommended a review of the airline passengers' bill of rights.
Meanwhile, he assured that policies and projects aimed at decongesting the country's main airport are continuously being implemented.
These include prioritizing commercial flights over general aviation during peak hours, the five-minute rule in taking off, the construction of Rapid Exit Taxiways to enable planes to exit the runway at faster speeds, and the transfer of more flights to Clark, among others. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency