CAAP grounds Lionair fleet after deadly plane crash

MANILA, Philippines – The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) decided to ground the entire fleet of local charter plane firm Lionair, after the fatal crash at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

"While investigation on the medical evacuation plane RP-C5880 is ongoing, it has been decided that Lionair's entire fleet will be grounded," CAAP said in a statement on Monday, March 30.

RP-C5880 crashed during takeoff and was engulfed in flames on Sunday night, March 29. All 8 passengers died, including a flight medic, nurse, doctor, 3 flight crew, and a patient and the patient's companion.

CAAP said the probe will be done by the Aircraft Accident Investigation and Inquiry Board, while the Flight Safety Investigation Committee will determine if there were violations of aviation safety protocols.

According to CAAP, the cockpit voice recorder of the aircraft has been recovered from the scene.

It earlier said the plane was an Agusta WW24 aircraft, but on Monday said it was an A 1124A Westwind ll manufactured by Israel Aircraft Industries.

In a statement on Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo called for a "thorough" probe into the fatal crash.

"We extend our deepest sympathies to the grieving families of those who perished in the crash," Panelo said.

"There must be a thorough investigation of the incident and the concerned government agencies must undertake measures to secure the safety of private aircraft as well as their passengers and crew," he added.

CAAP said the names of the victims will not be divulged while the probe is ongoing.

Runway reopens

NAIA Runway 24, where the crash occurred, was opened to traffic at 4:20 am on Monday.

But operations at the airport continue to be limited, given travel restrictions and lockdowns imposed by the Philippines and other countries due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday, CAAP said there were 22 commercial flights in Philippine airports and 30 sweeper flights which catered to stranded passengers from areas on lockdown.

Since March 14, a day before the "enhanced community quarantine" in Metro Manila was implemented, CAAP recorded a total of 8,573 flights in Philippine airports. Of the figure, less than half or 4,030 flights were commercial in nature, 134 for medical evacuation, and 397 were sweeper flights.

Sunday's Lionair crash is the second fatal incident involving the company within months. On September 1, 2019, a medical evacuation plane also operated by Lionair crashed in Laguna, killing all 9 people aboard.

Lionair operates locally and is registered in the Philippines. It is not affiliated with Indonesian low-cost airline Lion Air. –

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.