Sun, Nov 19, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Aviation Safety Council to probe plunging plane

WHO'S AT FAULT?Flight FE306 from Taipei to Seoul on Thursday morning was forced to descend abruptly after the plane's collision alarm was activated by a Thai airliner

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

A special taskforce formed by the nation's Aviation Safety Council is scheduled to arrive in Seoul today to investigate the plunging plane incident that occurred this week.

Young Hong-tsu (楊宏智), the council's managing director and spokesperson, told the Taipei Times yesterday that since the taskforce from Taiwan will be leading the investigation, the council should be able to deliver a preliminary report within a week.

Young added that the most important thing at this point is to collate and integrate all the related information about the incident.

"Members of the taskforce will interview both the captain and all flight attendants on board," Young said. "The taskforce will also examine information recorded on the plane's `black box' flight recorder, and on the ground in the control tower."

When asked why the Korean Aviation Accident Investigation Board had decided to defer investigative authority to Taiwan, Young said that the board had limited manpower and the case was simply too much for them to handle.

Also, no Korean passengers were on board the flight, which made turning authority over to a third party relatively uncontroversial, he said. Young admitted, however, that the situation was still unusual.

Far Eastern Air Transport flight FE306 from Taipei to Seoul on Thursday morning was forced to descend abruptly from an altitude of 10,360m to 9,100m, after the plane's collision alarm system was activated by a Thai airliner flying in the opposite direction.

Twenty-one passengers were injured due to the plunge, with one person suffering a brain hemorrhage and two people fractured ribs.

Passengers with injuries vowed yesterday that they will sue the company for not taking appropriate care of them after the incident.

Television footage showed that a majority of the passengers were still suffering pain caused by minor injuries. Some, however, remained hospitalized.

Chang Yu-peng (張有朋), a spokesman for Far Eastern Air Transport Corp, emphasized yesterday that the pilot's response to the alarm was appropriate under the circumstances and served to avoid a mid-air collision.

"It would be both unfair and overly demanding if the passengers follow through with plans to take legal action against us," Chang said, adding that the company had quickly arranged for all injured passengers to receive hospital treatment on Jeju Island after the plane landed, and promised to compensate all those concerned for any medical expenses incurred.

Chang said the airline representatives in South Korea had tried to visit the injured passengers on Friday night -- the passengers were staying in a local hotel at the company's expense. However, when the representatives arrived, the passengers had reportedly left the hotel to find something to eat, he said.

"The company will continue to communicate with them [the injured passengers] over the dispute," Chang added.

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