Excursions - Venues

Pilot Error ‘Probable Cause’ For Lao Crash

Pilot error was the likely cause of a plane crash during a tropical storm in Laos that killed 49 people, including six Australians.

The official report on the crash of Lao Airlines flight QV301, released on Friday, was presented to the family and friends of the victims in the capital, Vientiane.

The English-language version of the document, seen by AAP, says the probable cause of the crash included “the sudden change of weather condition and the flight crew’s failure to properly execute the published instrument approach”.

The plane was going in to land at Pakse International Airport in a heavy storm after flying from Vientiane.

The pilot failed on his first attempt to land and was forced to go around. But he reached an altitude of only 600 feet, well below the recommended 990 feet to execute a safe landing.

The report notes the Pakse airport is without radar control, but says there were “no anomalies” concerning ground equipment.

The report says the aircraft climbed and started to descend again before hitting an island in the Mekong River.

“It was raining but the pilot continued the approach and lastly decided to go around at an altitude below (recommended levels) in a steep right turn,” it says. “It impacted the trees on an island in the Mekong, the fuselage struck the bank and plunged into the river.”

All those on board perished on impact.

The report says Cambodian pilot Yong Sam was “experienced and skilled on this type of aircraft”.

Both black box data recorders had been analysed by air safety experts in France.

Relatives from the 10 countries of those who perished, along with diplomats and representatives of the French-made ATR 72-212A aircraft, were at the briefing on Friday.

Along with the Australian nationals, seven French, five Thai, three South Koreans, two Vietnamese, as well as individuals from China, Myanmar, Taiwan and the US died in the crash.

The Australian victims included 42-year-old Michael Creighton, who was an aid worker in Laos, and his father, Gordon, 71, who was visiting his son.

Sydney man Gavin Rhodes, his wife Phoumalaysy (Lea), their daughter and baby boy also died in the crash.

Gavin’s father, Geoff Rhodes, 71, said after some hesitation about travelling to Laos, he and Gavin’s sister, Melissa Rhodes-Smith, had to turned up “to have my son represented”.

“I’d like to come and bring the photograph to show what I have lost,” Mr Rhodes told AAP.

The briefing’s conclusions about pilot error and the circumstances of the crash were of less concern for Mr Rhodes. “Does it make any difference to how I feel? No,” he said. Ms Rhodes-Smith said attending the briefing had been important.

“Just being here as well, being in Vientiane where they spent their last few days and being with Lea’s family, it’s probably the stuff that makes us feel better,” she said.

“Yes I’m glad (to be here). I’m glad.”

In memory of Gavin and his family, the Rhodes have set up a fund to support a preschool in northern Laos, working through non-government aid group One Child Fund. So far they have raised $A83,000.

“Just having that purpose – it’s one of the things that helped us the most – is being able to do something in memory of them,” she said.

Source: skynews.com.au