View Full Version : 'Flying coffins' had shocking safety record

12th Nov 2002, 19:11
Wed "Sydney Morning Herald"

'Flying coffins' had shocking safety record
By Philip Cornford and Lee Glendinning
November 13 2002

The aircraft in which five Australian surfers died was a "flying coffin" owned by a debt-ridden airline with a shocking safety record, a Manila newspaper claimed yesterday.

Eighteen people died when a Fokker 27 aircraft owned by Laoag International Airline (LIA) crashed into Manila Bay three minutes after take-off on Monday morning.

Steve Thompson, 25, was the only one of a group of six Australian mates on a surfing trip to survive the crash.

The deaths of brothers Tim and Sam Coddington, 26 and 24, Darren Green 23, Nick Wright, 24 and John Benson, 24, had left their friends and family heartbroken, a relative said yesterday.

Rick Everingham, an uncle of the Coddington boys, told how all five were happy in their jobs, had girlfriends and had been friends for years.

"All five boys have left behind lovely girlfriends who are devastated by the accident, as are their parents," he said.

Filipino air safety authorities have grounded LIA's three remaining Fokker 27s and promised to investigate the allegations by the newspaper, the Philippine Star.

Investigators revealed the pilot, captain Bernie Crisostomo, made a distress call moments after take-off, reporting engine trouble and saying he would attempt an emergency landing on a public boulevard on reclaimed land in Manila Bay.

A Filipino politician, Imee Marcos, demanded sanctions on the airline, claiming the authorities had ignored warnings about LIA's safety record.

"Despite these warnings, the airline was allowed to expand its operations," Ms Marcos said.

Tony Casimiro, manager of radio station Bombo Radyo, told the Star LIA's planes had been involved in three crashes at two local airports.

He said the mayor of Batanes was killed in one of the crashes, leading local residents to call the Fokkers "flying coffins".

"Unless one's trip is of extreme emergency, I can't recall anyone taking LIA," he told the newspaper.

Another politician, Roque Ablan, a licensed pilot, accused LIA of flying aircraft manufactured in the 1960s.

Asked the age of the aircraft, LIA vice-president Alvin Yater replied: "Thirty plus".

Mr Ablan said the Fokkers were first owned by Philippine Airlines, who sold them to the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

The PAF sold them to a New Zealand company who franchised them to LIA, he said.

The airline was registered to carry passengers and freight on February 24, 1995, with its licence effective for 50 years.

Mr Everingham said the men surfed together, drank together, grew up together and had a lot of fun together.

They had saved hard all year and tailored their work schedules so they could get time off work together.

The group all came from Sydney, except Nick Wright, of Brisbane, who worked as a passenger services officer with Queensland Rail.

They flew to Manila on Sunday morning and had planned to stay at a popular surfing hotel, Badoc Island Resort, for a few weeks.

Another Australian, Bryan Forrester, 40, who is believed to be working in Manila, also survived the crash.

Mr Everingham said Tim and Sam "loved their sport, in particular surfing".

"Tim had recently returned from a surfing trip in Mexico and Sam from Samoa some 12 months ago.

"They had successful careers that they really loved - Tim as a carpenter/builder and Sam as an assistant cameraman at Channel Ten."

Mr Everingham said the ties between the six were strong.

"They had been great friends for years through school, surfing and their girlfriends."

Dale Harris
13th Nov 2002, 03:07
30 Years plus????? Best he doesn't come to your local Aussie GA airport.............

Kaptin M
13th Nov 2002, 08:27
Speaking from my experience (of flying) in the Phils:-

The Philippine press, IMHO, outdoes that of most other countries wrt the "sensationalism" aspect - believe it or not! eg., "a "flying coffin" owned by a debt-ridden airline with a shocking safety record", and hence only adding to the grief of the relatives and friends of those bereaved.

Although corrupt, the Ministry Of Transport (MOT) in Manila is an ICAO recognised body (I was there during the period they were being checked by the US Inspectors), and as such ENSURES that operators maintain a standard in accordance with ICAO.

Enter the pollies - Ms Imee Marcos, and Mr Roque ("The Dust") Ablan.
It is common knowledge in the Philippines that the Marcos family has a finger in most pies - including airlines. Ever heard of "Grand Air", or how about the "Grand Hotel"? Grand Air operated a fleet of B737's when I was there, crewed by pilots who drove their pax from the pickup point at the Grand Hotel.
It is rumoured that ANY business in the Phils containing the word "grand", is Marcos owned.

And so on to Senator Ablan - "Rocky", or "The Dust" (because of his apparent abilty to vaporise whenever the police were involved).
A licensed pilot!!! :eek: :eek: You would HAVE to be joking....but then again this IS the Philippines.
"Rocky" would have to be nudging 70 (and I'm being kind here).
However he IS (or was, back when I met him) a very switched-on gentleman, who NEVER let an opportunity to make money pass. He picked up an easy USD10K from the Aussie who ran a 737 for Air Philippines during their start up, just to utilise an ACOC he held (for lighties only).
He later ALSO became involved in an airline company running punters (under HIS ACOC, but now approved for RPT) from other parts of Asia to LAOAG!! :eek:
Surprise, Surprise!!

The "fact" that "the pilot, captain Bernie Crisostomo, made a distress call moments after take-off, reporting engine trouble and saying he would attempt an emergency landing on a public boulevard on reclaimed land in Manila Bay." is yet to be confirmed. There should be no reason to doubt that an F27 on one donk SHOULD have been able to make it back to Manila International Airport (MIA) - assuming full power was available on the remaining engine.

Unfortunately, "vested interests" and a senasationalistic press have not made this tragedy any easier for the remaining relatives.
I'm sure that the flight crew - like any other professional flight crew anywhere in the world - did their best under the circumstances.
That the aircraft WERE maintained, under the MOT, according to ICAO standards (otherwise why didn't Ms Marcos, and Senator Ablan pursue it earlier?).
And finally, that the Australian families of the guys who lost their lives, DON'T believe the bs published by the sensationistic Philippine press, but rather trust that the common sense of their sons' would have dictated whether THEY had decided which was the safest mode of transport.

Chimbu chuckles
13th Nov 2002, 11:56
While not making ANY comment on the crash in question I well remember when Dennis Buchanan had a company in the PI called Metro Air, or some such, utilising Talair aircraft, Otters mostly, and Talair C&T.

All the guys came back from Manila with stories of the Phillipino pilots being VERY anti assy training. Their attitude was if one fails crash somewhere handy...like losing one in a Twin Commanche..only they applied the same thought process to twin turboprops like the Otter and B1900C.

Yes this was a long time ago...mid 80s...but......


14th Nov 2002, 19:20
1984 to 1991, Chuck. It was a Joint Venture with Aerolift initially and MetroAir from 1990.

Kap, not sure I agree with you on "international standards" being met by Phils BAT franchised operators.

Kaptin M
15th Nov 2002, 09:42
Dunno when you were there Torres, but I found the Yanks (with ICAO) were totally unforgiving of even the smallest oversight - from personal experience, I was involved with the issue of an ACOC.
Unfortunately I found that at the top levels of the Filipino bureaucracy, USD's (or the promise of a job for someone's relation) could sometimes expadite a much needed clearance. But this is NO DIFFERENT to the rest of Asia.

Pilot training eventually comes down to "the individual".
As well as he performs on a line check, or in the sim, in the "Real World" - under different pressures, and away from the "sim environment" - some personalities might act VERY differently.

My (personal) experience in the Phils was that the ATO did NOT involve themselves enough in the day-to-day operations as other countries do.
But then the EXPERIENCE level within the ATO was just not there!

The then Head of Flight Standards, Saturino (Sate) Dela Cruz.....the Chief of the Airworthiness Section, Carlos Derpo..........and the Secretary (the 'Big Boss'), Major General Carlos Taņega had zilch experience as OPERATIONAL airline pilots.

Hence the orders coming from the top were "idealistic" vs practical.
And so pilots, and companies, who superficially ascribed to these same ideals were straightaway acceptable.

And so is this REALLY any different to the rest of Asia - and perhaps the rest of the bureaucratic Western world?