Carejet closes RPLL on Sunday

All Aboard Safe

April 20, 2009

Manila - A Westwind Air Ambulance was left disabled Sunday night when its left tire and landing gear burst into flames as it prepared for take-off at runway 24 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila.

The corporate Westwind series 2 jet with registry N911GU (sn 343) was manufactured by Israeli Aviation Industry(IAI) in 1981 and is operated by Guam based Air Ambulance service provider CareJet which is serving CNMI, Micronesia, Asia, Australia and the Pacific.

The Carejet plane with 4 passengers and 2 crew was piloted by Capt. Cooper Charles Kenward and co-pilot Shima Toshihiro, and was about to airlift two unidentified patients back to Won Pat International Airport in Guam at 8:18 pm when its tire burst and caught fire causing emergency rescue vehicle to rush to the scene where the aircraft stopped some 200 meters from the take-off point. Both crews already jumped out of the aircraft when the rescuers arrived and put out the fire using a fire extinguisher.

The patients were accompanied by nurses Eunice Neil and Mathew Keath. The Manila International Airport Authority rescue firefighting team evacuated the four passengers to safety. The disabled aircraft was later cleared from the runway and towed to Lufthansa Tecknik Hangar for further investigation by civil aviation authorities. No one was hurt in the accident.

The incident caused the runway to be closed for 3 hours causing diversion of 14 international and domestic flights bound to Manila. Among the airlines diverted to Clark and Cebu were Continental Micronesia, Singapore Airlines, Royal Brunei, Jalways, China Southern, Emirates, Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific.

Airport assistant general manager for Operations Octavio Lina disclosed that the plane recovery team had a hard time removing the aircraft from the runway because they lacked the necessary equipment to lift the small jet out.

The Operations chief disclosed that the medivac aircraft was specially designed with an extremely low profile for easy egress and ingress making all of their tools unusable. It was learned that even the pneumatic lifting bags, which are normally placed under the wing and then inflated to raise a plane, proved useless as the bags were too big for the aircraft. The special axel jack was also too big for the type of aircraft and could not fit underneath the wheels to be lifted.

The westwind jet was finally pulled out of the runway after borrowing a forklift from a nearby LTP hangar to lift the aircraft, place it on skates and tow it to a nearby aircraft maintenance hangar.

The airport reopend around 11pm with 8 airlines from foreign shores on holding pattern, and with Northwest Airlines and Asiana airlines taking the cue for landing. Airlines that suffered delay of flights were that of Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific for domestic and international destinations.

Lina said he will recommend to airport authorities the purchase of more aircraft recovery tools to considerably lessen the time it takes airport workers to clear the runway of any disabled aircraft. The equipment will include newer jacking and towing tools including an overhead crane with slings.

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