The pilot of the Nok Air flight that slid off the runway at Chiang Rai airport is to be summoned by regulators to explain why passengers were kept on board the aircraft for about an hour after the landing.
The director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT), Suttipong Kongpool, announced on Monday that the chief pilot of flight DD108 would have to defend his decision to keep passengers onboard the aircraft.
The CAAT needs to hear why the captain made the decision, Mr. Suttipong told the Bangkok Post.
In heavy rain on Saturday night, the Don Mueang-Chiang Rai flight with 164 passengers and six crew members slid off the runway as it landed at Mae Fah Luang in Chiang Rai. No injuries were reported.
After the accident, the captain of the 737-800 Boeing aircraft turned off the aircraft’s engines, leaving the passenger cabin in darkness without air conditioning.
Following this, passengers were told to remain on board until buses arranged by the airline arrived to transport them to the terminal.
After about an hour, 20 passengers were picked up by passenger vans. The remaining 144 passengers started complaining about the stuffy conditions in the cabin. They also complained about the lack of fresh air causing breathing problems and the possible dangers of staying in their seats in the dark.
One passenger captured a video of a female crew member trying to calm down angry passengers by telling them to stay seated. The flight attendant said, “Passengers aren’t allowed on runways.”
When the passengers insisted on leaving, the captain eventually allowed one of the eight emergency exit doors to be opened so they could exit the plane.
According to CAAT’s chief, all passengers must be evacuated from an aircraft within 90 seconds of a serious incident. Nevertheless, he said, the evacuation rules could be flexible based on passengers’ circumstances and aircraft safety.
According to Mr. Suttipong, the captain is the one who decides whether to evacuate after assessing the situation, including external factors.
CAAT’s chief also said passengers could stand on runways in an emergency, although they are normally off limits.
It does not seem likely that the aviation regulator would blame the Nok Air pilot for the slow evacuation in which most passengers had insufficient air to breathe. According to him, the decision may have been influenced by heavy rain and the need to wait for the buses.
The decision has also not been explained by Nok Air
According to Nok Air chief executive Wutthiphum Jurangkool, the airline adheres to all aviation safety guidelines to ensure the safety of all passengers. An investigation would be conducted by the airline, he said.
After Monday’s accident, Chiang Rai’s Mae Fah Luang airport management said it strictly followed emergency procedures. Fire engines were dispatched quickly to the aircraft, and the runway was closed for other aircraft’s safety.
In the meantime, the Chiang Rai airport will remain closed until Wednesday, as the Nok Air jet will be removed, and the runway will be examined for damage.