Cebu Pacific passengers recall frightening landing at Davao airport
DAVAO CITY, Philippines — “We thought we all were going to die,” said Percival Jacones, 33, a seaman returning to this city for a vacation, on board Cebu Pacific’s Flight 5J 971, which overshot the Davao International Airport as it was landing on Sunday night.
On its final approach, the flight faced turbulence and heavy rain. And as it landed at around 7:10 p.m. Sunday, it overshot the runway of the Francisco Bangoy International Airport (FBIA) and ended in a ditch.
“Everyone panicked. There were shouting, especially among kids and women,” Jacones said.
“We were terrified that the plane would explode,” he added.
Jacones said the flight crew and the pilots seemed to have been stunned by what had just happened that they failed to immediately attend to the passengers.
“They (cabin crew) apparently lacked crisis management training because they acted so poorly to the situation. A few of us passengers where the ones who tried to calm down the rest of the passengers,” he said.
Some 15 minutes later, a pilot came out from the cockpit and addressed the passengers.
“He told us that it was the heavy rain, and that they lost sight of the runway lights,” Jacones said.
Another passenger, Jun Narciso, who was traveling with his family, said the pilot told them that there was a problem with the plane’s wiper.
“After 15 minutes, the pilot went out of the cockpit and explained that the problem was caused by the plane’s wiper,” he said.
Narciso said the plane shook as it touched down the runway.
“The landing was very sudden and the pilot immediately put on the brakes. The plane’s engine was also immediately turned off,” Narciso said.
Although not one of the 165 passengers was hurt, it also took a while for them to be evacuated from the plane.
Passenger Menard Dacono, 26, a Filipino business development manager working in Singapore, said when they reached the airport, not one official from Cebu Pacific faced them.
“No one from the airlines offered an explanation,” Dacono said.
“We were even barred from taking photos of the aircraft,” he added.
Frederick San Felix, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) airport area manager, in a press briefing Monday, said they would have to wait for the aircraft accident investigation team from Manila to finish inspecting the incident scene, as part of the investigation to determine the cause of the accident, before airport authorities could finally clear the runway of the Cebu Pacific aircraft.
“Until the aircraft investigation team is finished we cannot just clear the runway for use by commercial flights,” San Felix said.
San Felix said it would take quite a time before the cause of the accident could be finally determined.
“We also need to retrieve the black box, as one of the evidence, we want to know if there’s a declaration of emergency before pilot was given the clearance to land,” he said.
He said flights at the airport would finally resume at 8 p.m. Monday after the towing away of the plane from the runway.
As of 7:30 a.m. Monday, Cebu Pacific canceled 20 flights to and from Davao because of the runway obstruction. The airline arranged for 10 extra round trip flights between Manila and General Santos, four extra flights between Cebu and General Santos, one extra flight between Iloilo and General Santos and one extra flight between Zamboanga and General Santos to re-accommodate affected passengers, Michelle Fojas, Cebu Pacific corporate communications manager, announced.
“The airline is contacting guests on their re-accommodation, and is providing transfers between General Santos and Davao, as well as meals and hotel accommodations, as necessary,” said the airline statement released to reporters.
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