Nok Air captain needs to 'defend' decision after crash

Nok Air captain needs to 'defend' decision after crash

The captain of a Nok Air aircraft that slid off the runway at Chiang Rai airport will be summoned by regulators to explain why passengers were kept on board for about an hour after the accident.

Suttipong Kongpool, director-general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT), said yesterday that the chief pilot of flight DD108 will be ordered to defend the decision.

"The rationale behind the decision is what the CAAT needs to hear from the captain," Mr Suttipong told the Inside Thailand news programme.

The Don Mueang-Chiang Rai flight with 164 passengers and six crew on board slid off the runway and its undercarriage collapsed as it landed in heavy rain at Mae Fah Luang in the northern province on Saturday night. There were no injuries.

The captain turned off the engines of the 737-800 Boeing aircraft after the accident, leaving the passenger cabin in darkness and without air conditioning. The passengers were then told to stay on board until buses arranged by the airline arrived to take them to the terminal. After about an hour fewer than 20 passengers had left by van. The remaining passengers started complaining about the stuffy conditions in the cabin, the lack of fresh air causing breathing problems and the possible dangers of staying in their seats in the dark. In a video taken by a passenger in the cabin, a woman crew member was heard trying to calm down angry passengers and telling them to remain seated. "Passengers are not allowed on runways," she said.

The passengers insisted on leaving the plane and the captain eventually permitted one of the eight emergency exit doors to be opened so they could disembark on a slide. Under international aviation protocols, all passengers must be evacuated from an aircraft within 90 seconds of a serious incident, according to the CAAT chief. But evacuation rules are also flexible, depending on the circumstances and safety of the passengers and aircraft, he said.

"The captain is the one who makes the decision on evacuation after assessing the situation, including external factors," Mr Suttipong said.

The CAAT chief also said passengers were allowed to stand on runways in case of emergency, although they were off limits in normal circumstances.

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