Friday, 29.6.2007: Plane Crash Caused by Pilot’s Error

Posted on 1 July 2007. Filed under: Week 514 |

The Mirror, Vol. 11, No. 514

Apologies for the late postings, due to a light travel accident and sickness in our team.

“Raining and dense jungle prevented searchers from finding the crashed plane immediately. 35 minutes after takeoff, a [AN-24] plane operated by the Progress MultiTrade Air [PMT Air] company, carrying 22 people, including 13 Koreans, from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville, it crashed into Bokor Mountain, covered with dense jungle, after the communication between the pilot and the control tower was off, after speaking to each other a few words only.

“The Dong-A Ilbo of South Korea published on 28 June 2007 the conversation between the pilot and the control tower in Sihanoukville (quoting the pilot), ‘We are flying at an altitude of 2,000 feet.’ The control tower in Sihanoukville responded, ‘You are flying too low. Given your current location, you should move to an altitude of 4,000 feet.’ The pilot said, ‘No problem; I am familiar with this area.’

“The plane lost contact shortly after this communication, disappearing from radar screens as it crashed into the northeastern side of Bokor Mountain in Kampot.

“The newspaper says it is a pride-driven tragedy. According to a recording of the conversation obtained by the Korean Embassy in Cambodia, it is highly likely that the crash was caused due to pilot error. Mr. Oh Gap-Yeol, Ambassador for Koreans Abroad, said after hearing the recording at the embassy, ‘The plane was flying lower than the standard altitude.’ The Dong-A Ilbo quoted the ambassador’s words, ‘The control tower warned the pilots that their altitude at the time of the crash was too low.’

“Around 50 km into the flight path to Sihanoukville airport lies Bokor Mountain – standing around 4,000 feet above sea-level and near the coastal town. Given the height of the mountain, the plane should have maintained an altitude of at least 3,800 feet.

“However, the plane was flying at 2000 feet – far below the standard altitude for the area. The adverse weather made matters worse, but the pilot’s pride led him to dismiss the warnings from the control tower.

“The Russian news agency Itar-Tass confirmed that the pilot was Nikolay Pavlenko from Uzbekistan. Moreover, the plane was reported to have deviated from its flight path. According to a military pilot who joined the rescue efforts, the plane had flown slightly north of the normal flight-path to Sihanoukville. This argument was also verified by the fact that the plane crashed southwest close to Bokor Mountain, 3,600 feet above sea-level. The remote location delayed rescue efforts as workers had difficulty accessing the crash site.

“Concerning signs of tragedy, the Dong-A Ilbo continued that the rescuers first identified adverse weather conditions as the cause of the crash. [Royal Cambodian Armed Forces commander-in-chief] Mr. Ke Kim Yan, chief of the rescue team, said in a short interview, ‘The crash was caused by adverse weather; not by a technical fault.’ Prime Minister Hun Sen also shared the analysis in a news conference held soon after the crash that the cash was caused by the weather. However, safety is often compromised. The PMT airliner that crashed was a decrepit Russian-made AN-24 that was developed over 40 years ago. With a poor safety record, the aircraft experienced a separate accident in northern Russia in 2005 that took the lives of 29 people.

”PMT Air countered the accusation, stating that the plane in question was in good condition and met all safety standards before the flight. The airline added that it is too early to determine the exact cause of the accident, and it will remain so until the black box flight data recorder can be recovered. As soon as the black box is found, they will consult Russian aviation experts who have arrived in Cambodia to conduct further analyses.

“Mr. Hun Sen said, ‘All aircrafts will have to be checked for safety issues and those found to be too old and unsafe will be removed from service.’

“It should be remembered that this plane crash was caused by the same fault as the fault of the pilots who flew a Yuon [Vietnamese] plane which crashed near Phnom Penh about ten years ago. At that time, the stubborn Yuon pilots, with too much pride, for they had occupied Cambodia, said that they knew Cambodia like they knew the palms of their hand, and they did not follow the advice from the control tower at Pochentong Airport. As a result, the plane crashed early one evening, killing 65 passengers – only 2 children survived – one Thai and one Vietnamese.

“Whatever reason, the plane crash might have been due to the age of the plane, or the pilot committed an error, or carelessness. All mishaps carry many lessons.

“We wish all victims to reach paradise.” Sralanh Khmer, Vol.3, #439, 29.6.2007

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 29 June 2007

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.6, #1378, 29.6.2007

  • Ministry of Health Says Cambodia Has Approximately 700,000 AIDS Carriers
  • 13 Dead Bodies of South Koreans [plane crash victims] Will Be Returned Home This Friday Afternoon
  • [Indian] Maoist Rebels Burn Railway Station in India

Khmer Amatak, Vol.8, #490, 29.6.2007

  • Samdech Krom Preah Starts to Meet People at the Local Level Directly by Phone from Malaysia
  • Kampuchea Krom Khmers Warn that They Will Hold Pilgrimage on 7 July 2007

Koh Santepheap, Vol.40, #6078, 29.6.2007

  • Cambodian People’s Party Announces that Samdech Hun Sen Is Prime Ministerial Candidate if It Wins 2008 Election
  • League of Civil Society Organizations Interested in Cleaning of Voter Lists [by National Election Committee]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.14, #3197, 29.6.2007

  • 300 [South] Korean Tourists [whose plane tickets had been booked by a tourist company for flights by PMT Air, whose plane crashed on 25 June killing 22 passengers and crew] Cancel Trips to Cambodia
  • PMT Air Provides $1,000 to Each Family of the Dead Victims’ Families; AN-24 Planes Had Crashed and Killed 1,725 People [world wide]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.15, #4323, 29.6.2007

  • Mr. Lao Mong Hay [former head of Legal Department of Center for Social Development, now professor at Toronto University, Canada] May Become Chairperson of a Committee of the Human Rights Party
  • 15 Big Companies of France Come to Cambodia to Check Investment Opportunities
  • Vietnam Plans to Construct Railway to Cambodia
  • Khmer Side Prevents 200 Black-Clad Thai Soldiers [special border protection unit] from Climbing Up to Preah Vihear Temple [for a visit]

Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol.14, #3074, 29.6.2007

  • Plane’s Flight Data Recorders Sent to Russia for Finding the Real Reason of the Plane Crash

Sralanh Khmer, Vol.3, #439, 29.6.2007

  • Plane Crash Caused by Pilot’s Fault
  • Son Soubert [member of Constitutional Council]: Prohibition of Monks’ Pilgrimage Contradicts Constitution
  • Funcinpec Officials Call Prince Norodom Ranariddh a Long-Term Tourist
  • Authorities Do Not Prevent [Illegal] Logging and Transportation of Wood in Kratie and Pursat

Go to last week’s editorial

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