Kalibo Airport resumes operations

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MANILA, Philippines — It is turning out to be an unlucky year for budget carriers.

A week after the three-day suspension on Zest Air and a June 2 landing accident of a Cebu Pacific plane, the local unit of Singapore’s Tiger Airways on Monday disrupted operations at the Kalibo International Airport for six hours after the nose gear of its plane accidentally slipped over the runway’s shoulder as it positioned for take-off, airport, an airline officials said.

The 8:20 a.m. flight was bound for Singapore, a route Tigerair Philippines launched on July 18, with 50 passengers on board, none of whom were hurt, a Tigerair Philippines spokesperson said. The passengers were mostly foreigners returning home from one of two main air gateways to popular tourist hotspot Boracay Island, which draws over a million tourists yearly.

The nose gear of the Airbus A320 was eventually freed and the aircraft was towed to a ramp for inspection, allowing the airport to resume operations by 2 p.m., Kalibo Airport officer-in-charge Percy Malonesio said in an interview. The airport handles about 34 flights daily during the present lean season, according to Malonesio.

The passengers have been billeted at a hotel where they could stay until the next available flight, likely Tuesday morning, Tigerair Philippines vice president of operations Capt. Adelberto Yap said in a separate interview on Monday.

“The aircraft was taxiing toward the end of the runway for take-off. As it [made a 180-degree turn], the nose gear went over the edge of the runway shoulder,” Yap said. “So it’s the automatic procedure. We had to shut down the engines and disembark the passengers.”

Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), which said 12 local and international flights were affected as of 12 noon, lifted the Notice to Airmen hazard alert at 2 p.m., allowing the Kalibo Airport to resume operations, a statement showed.

Yap said pilot error was likely behind the accident, although air safety regulator CAAP would still confirm this through an investigation.

The pilots, who are currently grounded pending an investigation, were “experienced,” having worked for Cebu Pacific previously, Yap said.

“But sometimes people get complacent and Kalibo’s runway is too short. So they miscalculated the turn,” Yap said.

This is the first accident involving Tigerair Philippines, which was established after its Singaporean parent acquired a minority stake in Southeast Asian Airlines Inc. (Seair) last year.

Tigerair Philippines, which is expanding its five-plane Airbus fleet to 25 aircraft in three to five years, currently flies to domestic locations like Clark, Laoag, Kalibo, Cebu, Iloilo, Tacloban and Puerto Princesa as well as international locations Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Its hubs are Clark International Airport in Pampanga and Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 4 in Manila.

It has a market share of about 3 percent, officials said in a previous briefing.

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