Sat, Jul 27, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Singapore Airlines sacks two pilots involved in crash

AFP , SINGAPORE

Singapore Airlines yesterday sacked the two pilots who were controlling a jumbo jet that crashed at CKS International Airport two years ago, killing 83 people.

"We felt it was the right thing to do," an airline spokesman said, but the Air Line Pilots Association called the decision "harsh and inappropriate."

Pilots Foong Chee Kong and Latiff Cyrano had mistakenly turned on to a runway at the airport that was closed for repairs when preparing to take off on a stormy night, and their jumbo jet exploded when it ploughed into construction equipment.

Ninety-six people aboard the plane survived, including the pilots. Taiwanese authorities blamed pilot error for the tragedy, with manslaughter charges against the pair conditionally suspended for three years.

Singapore Airlines said in a statement it had "terminated the services of captain Foong and first officer Latiff in accordance with their terms of employment."

The airline spokesman said a clause in the pilots' contracts allowed for their services to be terminated with three months' salary in lieu of notice.

A third pilot in the cockpit, first officer Ng Kheng Leng, was not held liable by Taiwanese officials and retained his job with the airline, as he was not engaged in the actual operation of flight SQ600.

An Air Line Pilots Association official told the Straits Times' online edition there was "no evidence to show that the pilots were reckless or had disregarded any rules, so this decision is harsh and inappropriate."

Foong and Latiff were told of their dismissal yesterday, two days after the airline received confirmation from the Taiwan High Prosecutor's Office endorsing a lower court decision to suspend the manslaughter charges.

The original decision by the Taoyuan District Court said the charges would be lifted if Foong and Latiff complied with certain conditions during a three-year probation period.

The conditions included a ban on the pilots operating any aircraft entering or leaving Taiwan for one year, and a requirement that they perform 240 hours of community service in Singapore.

The decision to suspend the sentence was taken because of the better-than-average flying record of the pilots, the remorse they showed to the victims and the low visibility on the night of the accident, Taoyuan prosecutor Chiang Yuan-chen said.

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