Runway overshoot flags up Philippines air safety concerns

A runway overshoot in December has reinforced concerns about the operations of Filipino private and low-cost airlines, following a spate of accidents and safety oversights.

The incident on 19 December involved an AirAsia Zest (AAZ) Airbus A320-200 at Kalibo International Airport in Aklan. The aircraft went off the runway onto the grass alongside as it turned to line up for take-off to Busan, South Korea.

According to the deputy director of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), John Andrews, the pilot probably made a miscalculation of speed or allowance during the 180-degree turn.

All 144 people on board evacuated safely. The two pilots were grounded immediately.

CAAP declined to comment on the extent of the damage to the aircraft. This is the fourth such incident in six months involving aircraft belonging to Filipino carriers.

In June, a Cebu Pacific Airbus A320 skidded at Davao International Airport while attempting to land. Two months later, a TigerAir Philippines A320 went off the runway at Kalibo after miscalculating a turn. In October, a 94-seat Sky Jet Airlines BAe 146-200 overshot the runway at Balesin Island after landing.

Andrews emphasised that CAAP is closely monitoring the operations of all the airlines concerned. That will include crew proficiency.

AAZ is a joint venture between Filipino businessman Alfredo Yao, who holds a 51 per cent stake, and AirAsia Philippines.

On 16 August 2013 AAZ had its air-operating certificate suspended for a week because of safety oversights, with its entire fleet of 10 A320s grounded.

On the long-haul front, Cebu Pacific’s plan to introduce flights to Europe has hit turbulence as the airline is still on the EU’s latest blacklist. Philippine Airlines is the only Filipino carrier allowed to fly to Europe.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded Philippines’ civil aviation safety to Category 2 in November 2007. An FAA team is expected in Manila to conduct a safety audit and review corrective measures made.

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