Lionair fleet grounded

Airplane Crush

THE entire fleet of Archie  Po- owned Lionair Inc may not  be able to fly following the crash of its medical evacuation plane at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport  (NAIA) on Sunday that left a doctor and seven other passengers dead.

This was based on the assessment made by the  Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).

“Right now the initial action that we are  looking into  is grounding the whole fleet.Its quite alarming. We will be  looking at the records deeply of Lionair,” said CAAP Deputy Director  Donald Mendoza.

Mendoza said Lionair got itself involved in two fatal accidents in just six months.

The recent incident was recorded on Sunday night when a Westwind  24 with registry  number RPC 5880 exploded while it was taking off at the end of Ninoy Aquino International Airport  runway 24 at around 8 p.m.

The flight was a medical evacuation mission bound for Tokyo Haneda Airport in Japan.

CAAP said the aircraft reportedly encountered  a problem which resulted to the death of Captain Ren Edward Nevado Ungson, Captain Melvin  Bruel de Castro, Captain Mario  Rosello  Medina Jr., FM Jael Edmark Agravante, Dr. Nicandro  Cenover Bautista, RN Conrado Tomelden jr. , John Richard Hurst-Canadian and Marilyn Vergara de Jesus, USA passenger.

Mendoza said the Lionair Westwind 24 aircraft  took time taking off adding that based on the report from the Manila Tower they were alarmed  that for the aircraft’s size, it took them some time to take off.

“Dapat dun sa haba ng take off raw nya, airborne na siya,” Mendoza said.

It remains unclear however, how the accident happened since the investigation is still underway. Mendoza mentioned that the aircraft was airworthy and that the licenses of the pilots were up to date.

He added that the plane just arrived from Ilo-ilo, where it delivered medical supplies, before it figured in an accident at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

MIAA General Manager Ed Monreal said they have not confirmed yet if there was a COVID-19 patient on the plane, nor the purpose of the medical evacuation flight.

Lionair was also the operator of the medical evacuation flight that killed nine people in Calamba, Laguna last September.

Mendoza said what happened was quite alarming and they will be deeply looking into the records of the unfortunate event that happened to Lionair.

“Definitely we will have a thorough investigation into this. We will advise the operator of the actions and the steps to be taken,” he added.

Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines spokesperson Eric Apolonio on Monday said the order will affect all seven of Lionair's planes and helicopters "while investigation is ongoing."

Filipino Doctor Nicko Bautista, an American national, a Canadian national and five other Filipinos perished in the Sunday crash.. The Filipinos also included a flight medic, a nurse, and three flight crew.

Apolonia told CNN Philippines the investigation into the ill-fated incident may take six months to a year.

He said the cockpit voice recorder of the medical evacuation plane has been retrieved, which will help authorities investigate the second fatal incident in less than a year involving Lionair.

CAAP said the two air incidents cannot be compared.

"Same operator but its's a different kind of aircraft. We cannot speculate," Apolonia said. With CNN Philippines