Airline backtracks on logo cover-up story

Landing gear caused THAI skid

Authorities have blamed defective landing gear after a Thai Airways International (THAI) Airbus A330-300 plane skidded off the runway at Suvarnabhumi airport on Sunday.

Thai Airways International (THAI) staff use air flotation equipment to lift and prepare to move the damaged Airbus A330-300 aircraft, with THAI logo and name blacked out, that skidded off the runway at Suvarnabhumi airport on Sunday night. (Photos by Somchai Poomlard)

Wiwit Deepradit, director of the Flight Standards Bureau at the Department of Civil Aviation, said Tuesday an initial investigation revealed the accident may have been caused by a faulty bogie beam, also known as a pivot, or truck beam, on the landing gear. The beam joins the two main axles of the actual gear.

Meanwhile, THAI clarified an earlier statement about the aircraft having its logo and serial number blacked out.

A THAI official had said the move was to protect the image of the airline and the Star Alliance network of carriers, which THAI belongs to.

The carrier has since issued a statement that while THAI generally practices "de-identifying" an aircraft after an accident, it is not a Star Alliance policy or procedure to de-identify planes.

The pilots had landed the plane smoothly and it had travelled along the runway for about one kilometre before the problem occurred.

Regarding the cause of the accident, Mr Wiwit said: "Everything was normal including the runway touchdown. The question is why the plane veered off the runway. So the focus is on a defect in the landing gear."

The right main landing gear of the plane, which was serving the Guangzhou-Bangkok route, reportedly collapsed.

Forty passengers were injured, with 14 taken to hospital - 12 of whom were discharged on Monday.

Suvarnabhumi operations said Dozens of arriving planes had to circle for an average of about 10 minutes, while 130 departing planes were delayed by an average of 20 minutes for a second day on Tuesday, waiting for the "anonymous" Thai Airways International plane to be moved off the runway.

"An examination shows that the plane is severely damaged, especially on its right side and engine which scraped against the runway and caused sparks due to the friction," Mr Wiwit said.

He said if the investigation concludes a defective part of the plane is to bame, the department will send the part to France for further study as Airbus is based in Toulouse.

Woradet Hanprasert, director-general of the department, said Tuesday that authorities had to find out why the landing gear malfunctioned. Another question to be answered is why a fire broke out in one engine of the plane, he said.

Suvarnabhumi air traffic control reported the fire broke out before landing, but THAI said there were sparks only during the runway incident. Two engines and a pair of tyres on the Airbus plane were damaged.

THAI chairman Ampon Kittiampon Tuesday said the incident was unavoidable, but the pilots and the attendants of the flight TG679 made the right decisions to protect the lives and property of their passengers. The crew exceeded their duties and should be appreciated by passengers, he said. Mr Ampon denied accusations on social media that some crew members ran for their lives. THAI standards are very high and if the crew had not made the right decisions there could have been a tragedy, he said.

Apinan Wannangkun, vice-president of Aeronautical Radio of Thailand Co, reported that from 7am to 3pm Tuesday 42 visiting planes had to circle for about 10 minutes, and 130 departing planes were delayed by 20 minutes on average at Suvarnabhumi airport due to the partial closure of the eastern runway where the accident happened. Airport staff had already repaired the runway.

THAI president Sorajak Kasemsuvan said the removal of the plane from the runway was completed early Wednesday.

Related search: Thai Airways International, cover-up, logo, flag, Star Alliance, defence landing gear, runway, Suvarnabhumi

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Writer: Amornrat Mahitthirook & Patsara Jikkham