Thai evacuation pilot hails 'heroic' staff

Thai evacuation pilot hails 'heroic' staff

Flight FD571 with Thai returnees from Wuhan in China arrived at U-Tapao airport Tuesday night. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Flight FD571 with Thai returnees from Wuhan in China arrived at U-Tapao airport Tuesday night. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Thailand's turn to send an aircraft to Wuhan to bring back its nationals stranded in the locked-down city came on Tuesday. That mission shed light on the courage of the air crew and medical personnel who went ahead with the flight into the heart of the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak.

Among the staff who received praise for their service was Manoon Jarornloy, the pilot who flew the Thais out of the stricken city. Capt Manoon once served as a Royal Thai Air Force pilot, before resigning to join a commercial airline.

On his Facebook, the AirAsia pilot credited the success of the mission to medical personnel, Foreign Ministry officials and his crew.

The plane took off for Wuhan from Bangkok's Don Mueang airport at 7.10am with a seven-man medical team and two officials from the Foreign Affairs Ministry on board. It was agreed the flight crew would cede control to the medical team as soon as the door was opened upon landing in Wuhan.

It was 11.15am local time when the plane landed in Wuhan.

Boarding took a gruelling six hours to complete because the cabin crew had to work together with the flight deck and medical personnel to seat passengers in a way that ensured no one was exposed to unnecessary risks.

Passengers who displayed pneumonia-related symptoms were "isolated" at one end of the cabin. Those who were suspected to be sick but appeared healthy were told to sit in a different part of the cabin, separated from passengers deemed low risk, who sat at the front.

Each passenger received two bottles of water, sandwiches, and hand-sanitising gels.

Full inflight services were provided, with medical personnel helping cabin crew serve food and beverages to passengers -- sometimes while entertaining them -- to reduce stress. The aircraft landed at U-Tapao airport about 8.30pm.

"The doctors and officials from the Foreign Ministry worked hard all day. My crew too. If anyone deserves to be called heroes, it's them," he wrote.

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