Tuesday September 18, 1:46 PM
BANGKOK (AFP) - The pilot of a jet that crashed at the Thai resort of Phuket killing 89 people had decided to land despite being warned of dangerous winds near the runway, airline officials said Tuesday.
Udom Tantiprasongchai, president of budget carrier One-Two-Go which operated the doomed plane, admitted the airline bore some responsibility for the crash.
“It is too soon to jump to conclusions, it is unfair to our staff. Please wait until the investigation is finished. But definitely it is partially our responsibility,” he told reporters.
Kajit Habanananda, the vice president of One-Two-Go, said the pilot had been warned about the wind, but urged investigators not to assume that human error was to blame for Thailand’s worst air disaster in a decade.
“It’s true that there was a warning of wind shear from the previous flight,” Kajit told AFP.
“But the wind is constantly changing,” he said, adding that such weather conditions were the main factor that would influence a decision on whether to abort the landing.
Wind shear is a sudden change in the wind that can throw a plane off course but then disappear just as quickly, leaving pilots struggling to keep the jet under control.
Sunday’s flight from Bangkok was approaching in driving rain and wind when it slammed onto the runway before breaking up and hitting a wooded embankment in flames.
It was carrying 123 passengers and seven crew, of whom a total 41 escaped. The death toll included up to 57 foreigners.
Kajit urged investigators to wait for data from the flight recorders, which have been sent to the United States for examination.
“I would like to wait for the results of the black boxes from the US, which will take one week, before saying what the cause of the accident was,” Kajit said.
“As of now, I cannot speculate. No one knows the truth.”
Air traffic controllers at Phuket told the Indonesian pilot Arief Mulyadi, who was among the dead, that weather conditions were bad, said Kumtorn Sirikorn, executive vice president of the national air traffic control body, Aeronautical Radio of Thailand.
“There was a warning of wind shear from the pilot of the previous flight, which landed four minutes ahead of One-Two-Go,” he told AFP.
"Air traffic control asked the pilot whether he knew about the wind shear, and he said he knew.
"Then the air traffic control official gave him additional information and asked him whether he still wanted to land or not. The pilot insisted he wanted to land.
“Maybe something unusual occurred during his landing attempt.”
But the pilot’s son said senior officials at the airline told him that his father had asked for permission to return to the capital Bangkok, according to the Indonesian newspaper Tempo.
“Arief had the time to ask the authorisation to go back to Bangkok and abort landing in Phuket airport because of unfriendly weather,” but the air traffic control tower said he should land, Agung Bayu Hanggono told the newspaper.
Civil aviation officials have also previously said the pilot of the MD-82 had received permission to abort the landing at the last minute.