Half of the systems to detect potentially dangerous wind shear were not working at the time of a crash at a Phuket airport that killed 89 people on board, officials said Tuesday. Forty-one passengers survived the crash.
The budget One-Two-Go Airlines flight OG269 was carrying 123 passengers and seven crew from Bangkok to Phuket when it skidded off a runway Sunday while landing in driving wind and rain, catching fire and engulfing some passengers in flames as others kicked out windows to escape.
Investigators have said wind shear — a sudden change in either wind speed or direction in an aircraft’s flight path that can destabilize a plane — was among the possible causes of the crash.
“Three out of six low-level wind shear alert systems were not working at the time,” said Vuttichai Singhamanee, director of flight standard bureau of Transport Ministry’s Aviation Authority Department.
Vuttichai said the solar-powered systems — which were out of power at the time of the crash — could have made it difficult for the pilot Arief Mulyadi, to judge whether it was safe to land. Mulyadi, who died in the crash, had been criticized by some Transport Ministry officials for landing despite warnings from the flight tower about treacherous wind shear.
While it is too early to definitively say what caused the crash, Kajit Habnanonda, president of Orient-Thai Airlines, which owns One-Two-Go, also pointed to wind shear as a possible factor.
“The pilot who flew the doomed aircraft was one of our best. He was very experienced, patient and very decisive,” Kajit told The Bangkok Post newspaper.
“There was no way of knowing in advance what sort of obstacles lay ahead for any pilot,” he said.
The two black boxes were retrieved from the wreckage Monday and he said they would be sent to the United States for examination.
Passengers and officials said the accident occurred when the pilot, maneuvering in heavy tropical rain and wind, tried to abort his landing and pull up for a second attempt. The aircraft lurched up, then down, hitting the tarmac hard.
It was Thailand’s deadliest aviation accident since Dec. 11, 1998, when 101 people were killed when a Thai Airways plane crashed while trying to land in heavy rain at Surat Thani, 330 miles south of Bangkok. Forty-five people survived.