NAIA runway reopens, stuck aircraft removed

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MANILA — The Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s runway 06/24 is back to normal operations before noon Saturday, as the international aircraft that was stuck there since late Thursday night was finally lifted off the runway.

Thousands of passengers were affected and many flights were either cancelled or diverted, as the runway was closed after Xiamen Air flight MF8667 skidded off shortly around 11:55 p.m. Thursday due to the heavy rains.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) had issued five Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) declaring the runway closure, because clearing operations team had a hard time extracting the aircraft.

“The soil in runway 06/24 is very soft. It would be very dangerous to forcibly extract the aircraft there because it might damage the runway,” CAAP spokesperson Eric Apolonio told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) earlier.

Xiamen Air aircraft was transported to the Balagbag ramp early Saturday.

The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), however, requested CAAP to extend the runway closure to 12 noon. This was to give way for the demobilization of heavy equipment used to lift the aircraft.

The time was also used to clear the runway of debris, the MIAA said.

Meanwhile, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade apologized for the public inconvenience caused by the incident.

“I am saddened by the inconveniences and consequences brought about by the incident involving Xiamen Air,” he said in a statement on Saturday. “It is a regrettable experience, which is not of our own liking, nor of our own making. I am sorry. We did our very best to address the situation.”

Tugade said the incident, though, had served as an “eye-opener,” reminding authorities “to take a second look at the processes, procedures, and protocols of concerned agencies, as well as airlines, so that we may all improve in the future.”

He also thanked those who had taken an extra mile to lift up the stuck aircraft.

“More importantly, through this incident, I personally witnessed the dedication and ‘bayanihan’ spirit exhibited not only by public servants from CAAP, led by Director General Jim Sydiongco, MIAA, led by General Manager Ed Monreal, and the DOTr, but also those of third parties who offered their assistance, including the private sector, volunteers, and other airports, such as Clark and Subic. Again, on behalf of the entire DOTr Family, I am deeply sorry,” he said. (PNA)

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