Friday, October 18, 2013

Laos: Lao Airlines ATR-72 Crashes in Pakse on Flight from Capital, 49 Passengers, Crew Feared Dead

According to Reuters, Lao Airlines Flight QV301, a French-manufactured ATR-72 twin-engine turboprop crashed in bad weather on Wednesday (October 16), plunging into the Mekong River and reportedly killing all passengers and crew aboard, that included nationals from ten countries.

The ATR originated in the capital of
Vientiane and was just short of its destination of Pakse by eight kilometers (five miles) when it crashed at approximately 1610 hours.

A Lao Airlines official told Reuters that 44 passengers and five crew members were aboard the flight at the time of the crash, which may have been influenced by
the tail end of Typhoon Nari, which the region on Tuesday (October 15).

A passenger list from the airline listed the nationalities of 44 people including 17 Lao, five Australians, seven French, five Thais, three Korean, two Vietnamese and one person each from the US, Canada, China Malaysia, and Taiwan.

COMMENT: Lao Airlines is the national carrier of the communist state and has operated since 1976. Its aircraft carried 658,000 passengers last year and it has a fleet of just fourteen aircraft, mostly propeller-driven.

The airline operates on seven domestic routes and has international flights to China, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore.

The state-run Laos news agency KPL quoted a witness as saying that the plane was about to land but appeared to be hit by a strong wind.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said France was rushing embassy officials to the crash site.

The plane manufacturer ATR in France said Lao Airlines operated six ATR-72 planes among its fleet. The aircraft that crashed was new and was delivered in March 2013.

Laos' last fatal aircraft accident was in October 2000 when a plane operated by the airline--then called Lao Aviation--crashed into mountains in the remote northeast of Laos, killing eight people.

Laos, a nation of seven million, is one of Asia's poorest countries and is highly dependent upon foreign donors.

Our readers are cautioned that domestic air travel in very poor nations, particularly those having deficient aviation infrastructure, including ground navigation elements, are often at risk of weather-related disasters because bad weather cannot be visualized.

Keeping in mind that many carriers in poor countries fly on schedule not knowing the complete weather picture, and face consequences if airlines cancel too many flights, it is incumbent on passengers to stay on top of weather they are operating in, particularly those nations that have a poor history of weather-related accidents.