Saturday, December 29, 2012

Myanmar: Air Bagan Christmas Day Crash Evidence of Indemnic Air Safety Issues

In the aftermath of the Christmas Day crash of an Air Bagan Fokker 100 jet, Flight 011, which originated in Yangon via Mandalay to Heho Airport, many foreign tourists have since canceled their reservations on the carrier, which began air service in 2004.

The Fokker hit power lines on its final approach to land, broke apart and burst into flames. The approach was further complicated by heavy fog. There was one fatality on the ground and one fatality on board.  Eleven passengers were injured, including four foreigners.

When the aircraft came to its final resting position after the crash, crew and passengers had only 90 seconds to evacuate from the fuselage. 

COMMENT: The Fokker 100 jet was 21 years old, but passed annual air worthiness inspections, which is not saying much, given the historic and frequent air crashes sustained by commercial aviation in
Myanmar.

The Fokker was carrying 71 people (as well as a crew of six), including 48 foreigners, at the time of the crash. As part of each passenger's compensation, they were paid $2,300 each.

Air Bagan is one of a half dozen very small scheduled carriers that fly domestic routes in Myanmar. 


After the destruction of Flight 011 was destroyed in Tuesday's crash, its fleet now consists of five aircraft, including four ATR turboprops and another Fokker 100. Hardly a good safety record for such a small airline.
 

In 2008, one of Air Bagan's aircraft overshot a provincial airport runway, spun out of control and crashed, causing the wings and tail to snap off. Many passengers were injured but none died.

Since the December 25 crash of Air Bagan, foreign tourists have been avoiding both Air Bagan and Air KBZ. 

For many years I flew commercial flights to and from Myanmar from Bangkok, but always insisted in flying aboard Thai Airways or chartered aircraft based in Bangkok.

Given Myanmar's poor aircraft safety record, I strongly suggest the use of reputable chartered aircraft within the country's borders. 

In 2008, the British Foreign Commonwealth Office warned its staff to avoid flights aboard Myanmar-registered aircraft.