Passenger disputes weather as issue in Air Niugini crash

Boaters on Weno island in Chuuk, in the Federated States of Micronesia respond to the crash of Air Niugini Flight 73 earlier this morning in Chuuk. All 46 people aboard are safe, said airport Manager Jimmy Emilio. Picture: Courtesy of Bill Davis through PACNEWS

POHNPEI, 05 OCTOBER 2018 (MARIANAS VARIETY) – In the wake of last Friday’s Air Niugini crash landing in the Chuuk lagoon, a passenger has challenged the airline’s contention that “bad weather” was a factor in the accident.

Bill Jaynes, editor of the Kasehlelie Press in Pohnpei, said it was not raining during the attempted landing by the Air Niugini flight in Chuuk. He said he looked out the window of the plane during the approach and could see the dock area on the ground at a distance of over a mile.

He said he also spoke with a passenger waiting at Chuuk airport terminal for the United Airlines flight that was scheduled to land a few minutes later who confirmed it was not raining “regardless of the pilot’s statement,” Jaynes said.

Media statements issued by the airline pointed to poor weather conditions at the time of the landing Friday morning. “Early reports indicate very poor visibility at the time (of the crash) due to bad weather,” said Air Niugini Chairman Sir Kostas Constantinou in a media statement the day after the crash.

Jaynes said ocean water inside the plane was almost waist high by the time he got out. But, he said, it was not raining when he emerged from the aircraft. “It most definitely was not raining,” he said in comments published in the Marshall Islands Journal. “If you’ve seen my interview (on Facebook that went viral), my clothes are wet from the bottom up and I’m dry on top. It was sprinkling during the interview but that was about an hour later.”

Meanwhile, investigators have been steadily recovering data key to determining the cause of the crash. The plane landed in the lagoon about 600 feet before the runway.

“On Thursday, October 4, the civilian divers contracted by the Federated States of Micronesia recovered the Automated Flight Information Reporting System or AFIRS unit from Air Niugini Flight 073 that landed in the water of the Chuuk Lagoon,” said a statement from FSM investigators. “The AFIRS provides functions such as safety services voice and text messaging, data collection and transmission, and on-demand streaming of flight data recorder (known as the “black box”), engine and airframe data.”

The AFIRS and the Flight Data Recorder recovered from the plane earlier are both being sent with an FSM investigator to Papua New Guinea for analysis.

Other data collection equipment is being sent to the United States for review, FSM investigators said.

“The Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System recovered from the aircraft (Wednesday) will be taken to the manufacturer’s facility in the US to be decoded with specialized software,” said FSM investigators. “Its stored data will provide the investigation with additional information on alerts and warnings.”

Scuba divers are still attempting to recover the Cockpit Voice Recorder and other recording devices from the aircraft. The plane is sitting in 90 feet of water.