By P. Jeffrey Black
Most passengers believe that aviation security begins once you arrive at the airport and embark on the mind-numbing TSA security procedures. But what about all the other factors involved in the safety and security of passengers that most people don’t think about, like the airlines following safety regulations, aircraft maintenance requirements, and crews being properly trained.
And what about those discount airlines with the really cheap fares –– do they have your security and safety in mind?
On September 16, 2007, One-Two-Go Airlines flight 269, an MD-82 aircraft, crashed while trying to land in bad weather on a small resort island called Phuket. The plane was being flown by Captain Arief Mulyadi and First Officer Montri Kamolrattanachai. One-Two-Go is a budget airline, and is the subsidiary of Orient Thai Airlines.
According to this article, the crash was partly caused by a wind shear, a significant change in horizontal and vertical wind speeds, which can occur during a downburst of rain in a sever thunderstorm. Okay, but what was the other part that caused the crash? The article doesn’t say.
Before the smoke from the crash had cleared, current and former pilots of One-Two-Go Airline were coming forward and describing dangerous actions that had been taken by management, that some of the airline’s pilots were incompetent, and that they were not surprised the crash occurred.
There was this post made on a Thai airline forum by one captain who blamed the crash on crew fatigue, maintenance problems, and the well known incompetence of Captain Mulyadi. It reads, “He [Mulyadi] had failed his medical early this year and was grounded for two months. It became established that he would fall asleep while at the controls.”
And there was this post by another captain who also had some very harsh criticism towards Captain Mulyadi, which included accusations that he had a reputation for falling asleep on flights forcing co-pilots to take control of the aircraft. It reads, “He [Mulyadi] must have suffered from low blood sugar because all my First Officers would complain or laugh that he would always fall asleep in the afternoon flights. Apparently he recognized this and asked to be scheduled for early morning flights. The crash occurred at 3:40 p.m.”
The idea that Captain Mulyadi had fallen asleep or even froze up on approach to the runway, was even more credible as a factor in the crash, when the transcript of the black box recorder was revealed. It appeared that First Officer Montri Kamolrattanachai was in control of the aircraft for landing, which is unusual in rough weather landings. The more experienced Captain would normally be in control of the aircraft in such situations.
When the aircraft was approximately 50 feet above the runway, Kamolrattanachai indicated a “go-around,” and the landing gear was retracted to the up position. Kamolrattanachai then announces that he was passing control of the aircraft over to Captain Mulyadi, who never responds or acknowledges that he has control.
The aircraft then slams into the runway approximately 15 seconds later.
From the blackbox transcript:
Montri announces a go around
(The throttle is already in retard mode)
(The TOGA is not engaged)
Engine EPR decreased
Montri: “flaps 15”
Landing gear selected up
Montri: “You have control”
(no acknowledgement from Arief and no further communication from either pilot)
Engine thrust idle for 15 seconds
4 seconds before impact thrust was increased to close to takeoff thrust.
So who was flying the aircraft in those last 15 seconds?
Apparently no one.
But could the possibility of crew negligence have been the only factor contributing to the crash? One pilot in particular, Captain Clement Campeau, had written this letter to the Chief Pilot and Safety Officer John McDermott one year before the crash, disclosing that aircraft were not being properly maintained, that crews were taking bribes to work longer hours than regulations allowed, and that certain aircraft were not properly insured. Captain Campeau warned that the current conditions were going to cause “a serious incident with possible loss of life.”
In an exposé investigation by Channel 9 MSN Australia, it was revealed that One-Two-Go Airlines had not been properly maintaining its aircraft, had not trained their pilots adequately, and was flying their crews far more hours than was permitted by regulations, thereby contributing to severe crew fatigue.
In their investigation, Channel 9 hunted down numerous former pilots of One-Two-Go Airlines, who all resigned soon after the crash. They described in quite detail, the dangerous culture that existed in the company, leading up to the crash.
The executives of One-Two-Go Airlines denied all the allegations made by the former pilots, stating that its typical in the airline industry for disgruntled pilots to criticize their former employers. You can decide for yourself who to believe by watching the disturbing video of Channel 9’s investigation (click on picture below).
And the next time you want to save a few bucks by choosing to fly with a budget airlines, just remember — you get what you pay for.
Is your life worth bargaining for over a cheap ticket?
If you’d like to learn more about the mystery surrounding Flight OG 269, blogger Bonnie Rind has a great, informative site devoted to the crash here.