8 dead in aircraft fire at NAIA

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 29) — Eight people on a medical evacuation mission to Tokyo, Japan are dead after the Agusta WW24 aircraft they were on caught fire Sunday, 8 p.m. at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Those who died were an American national, a Canadian national, a flight medic, a nurse, a doctor and three flight crew, Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Ed Monreal confirmed.

Airport authorities were tight-lipped about why the medical evacuation was supposed to take place.

Investigation on the incident is still ongoing, but an initial statement from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said the aircraft reportedly encountered a technical problem while rolling for takeoff on Runway 06/24. The MIAA said the accident happened at the end of the runway as the aircraft was taking off.

The MIAA said its fire and rescue team was immediately dispatched to extinguish the flames that engulfed the plane.

Monreal said the closure of the airport’s runway will cause minimal disruptions in NAIA’s operations, which have already scaled down as a result of numerous flight cancellations due to travel restrictions imposed by various countries in an effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fleet to be grounded?

Airport authorities are refusing to discuss any other details surrounding the accident, but CAAP Deputy Director General Don Mendoza said the aircraft, operated by Lionair, is air-worthy and that its pilot’s licenses are current.

Mendoza also confirmed that the same aircraft was also used to ferry medical equipment to Iloilo on Saturday.

Mendoza also said they are looking into the possibility of grounding Lionair’s whole fleet, as it also operated another medical evacuation aircraft which crashed in Calamba last September 2019.

“Right now the initial step that we are looking into is grounding the whole fleet. It’s quite alarming, but we are looking into the records of this unfortunate event that happened to Lionair,” Mendoza said.