Thursday, September 20, 2007

What caused the crash of the 1-2-3 Go plane in Phuket?

It's beginning to look like the Phuket airport, not the pilot or airline, may in fact be responsible for the crash of the jetliner. Wind shear -- a sudden change in the direction or speed of the wind in an aircraft's path -- seems to be implicated. Singapore's Straights Times reports the following:
  • 3 out of 6 solar-powered wind shear alert systems were out of power at the time of the crash (source: Vutichai Singhamanee, director of flight standard bureau of the Transport Ministry's Aviation Authority Department).
  • The son of the pilot (now dead) said Phuket authorities told him his father wanted to go back to Bangkok, but the control tower had said he should land.
  • Orient Thai Airlines, owner of One-Two-Go, defended the Indonesian pilot as one of his best, "very experienced, patient and decisive."
  • The pilot of the previous flight, which landed 4 minutes ahead, had warned of wind shear. When the One-Two-Go pilot was told of this by air traffic control, he had said that he wanted to land. (Source: Kumtorn Sirikorn, VP of air traffic control body Aeronautical Radio of Thailand via AP)
On one hand, it seems to me that a good and experienced pilot would not have chosen to land at Phuket under such circumstances. On the other hand, why would the air traffic control guy make a false claim that could easily be contradicted by the flight data recorder? In either case, if half the alert systems were not working during stormy weather, air traffic control has a lot more explaining to do.