Davao crowd cheers as Cebupac moves plane
MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - The Cebu Pacific-hired team has pulled the Airbus A320-200 out of the grassy area and onto the runway almost two days after it skidded off at the Davao international airport.
Workers, technicians, officials and members of the media cheered when the aircraft's nose landing gear touched the paved ground at 4:30 pm, Tuesday, June 4.
The aircraft, which is being towed toward the old Davao airport terminal, has been stuck since it figured in a mishap on Sunday evening, June 2, forcing the closure of the country's 3rd busiest airport.
This paves the way for the re-opening of the airport, the main gateway to Mindanao, by 8pm. "We are formally opening the Davao International Airport at 8 o'clock tonight," CAAP Deputy Director General John Andrews told radio DZMM.
Watch a video of the extraction in process below.
The local airport authorities allowed Cebu Pacific to continue towing away the aircraft after the 3pm "final deadline" and despite an order from the central office of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).
The CAAP had wanted to take over clearing the airport runway after Cebu Pacific missed several deadlines since Monday evening. Citing national interest and banking on equipment of the Manila International Airport Authority, CAAP wanted to take over the removal process without regard to the damage they may do to the plane.
CAAP is in-charge of investigating the incident involving a Cebu Pacific aircraft that skidded off the runway after touchdown on Sunday, June 2, amid heavy rain.
The Gokongwei-led airline said the have hired a team from a Singapore Engineering Company who have been working to extract the plane since Monday.
The team is composed of engineering and maintenance personnel who are "experts" in doing the task, Cebu Pacific said in a statement on Tuesday. Another team from Airbus also assisted in the extraction.
Watch another video of the extraction.
To salvage or not
As of 2pm Tuesday, the aircraft's nose landing gear was lifted from the ground and secured on a flatbed truck, while steel plates had been placed under the main [rear] landing gear, the airline said.
"These measures are international practices and should enable us to tow the aircraft so runway operations can resume," it added. The airline officials have said they have been prioritizing clearing the runway so operations can resume at Davao airport.
CAAP Deputy Director General John Andrews said the process had been painfully slow since Cebu Pacific wanted to salvage the plane so it could still use it. Debates included whether to tow the aircraft from the rear or the front.
Andrews said the plane may “no longer be salvageable” considering the extent of damage since both of the plane’s engines were severely damaged.
Since the June 2 incident, at least 40 flights have been cancelled or re-routed, and hundreds of passengers have been affected.
Cebu Pacific president and CEO Lance Gokongwei called the mishap an "unfortunate incident" on Monday night. Gokongwei also issued a personal apology to the affected passengers.
Some of the 165 passengers onboard the Manila-Davao Cebu Pacific 5J 971 flight took to social media to air their harrowing experience.
The incident prompted the president of Ateneo de Davao University to write a scathing letter accusing the airline's personnel of “insensitivity and ineptness” in dealing with the airline passengers. "It was only after 27 minutes in a smoked cabin that the passengers were allowed to leave the plane by coming down emergency slides," wrote Fr. Joel E. Tabora. He also said the university is boycotting Cebu Pacific — the country's biggest domestic airline operator.
Davao Oriental Vice Governor Joel Almario, who was among the passengers, said they are mulling a class suit against Cebu Pacific, citing the lack of preparation of the airline staff during a crisis situation.
Cebu Pacific vice president for marketing and distribution Candice Iyog said the way the ground crew handled the passengers is "something we can improve on."
She and Gokongwei, however, said the cabin crew followed protocol in handling the passengers while still they were still inside the plane.
In explaining why the airline staff took about 20 to 30 minutes to deplane the passengers, she said the cabin crew did not see imminent danger after they landed, checked the passengers if they have sharp objects with them, and were the last to deplane after making sure no one was left behind.
Gokongwei highlighted that no one was injured from the incident. - with reports from Karlos Manlupig/Rappler.com