MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine aviation authorities said Tuesday they are investigating Cebu Pacific pilots and crew who left passengers waiting some 15 minutes before deploying emergency slides on a plane that overshot the runway and landed on its nose.
None of the 165 passengers was injured, but several complained about the slow response. The rough landing in stormy weather Sunday evening forced the three-day closure of the Davao International Airport in the southern Philippines while the Airbus A320-200 remained stuck on the runway. The aircraft was lifted off the grass and was being towed away Tuesday.
Civil Aviation Authority Deputy Director General John Andrews said pilot error probably caused the accident. He said the aircraft could not be repaired.
"Everyone panicked. Women and children were screaming," Percival Jacones told the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper. He said the cabin crew appeared stunned and it took 15 minutes before the captain came out of the cockpit to address the passengers.
Davao Mayor Sara Duterte said airport management was late in alerting city emergency services about the landing and denied quick access to the passengers. She said an airport security guard phoned Emergency 911 to report the accident. The aviation authority said all angles will be investigated.
Andrews told reporters that the pilots and cabin crew have been grounded pending the investigation. He said the pilots violated the standard operating procedure by not ordering an immediate evacuation of the aircraft.
Cebu Pacific President Lance Gokongwei apologized but also defended the crew's action.
"In this situation we may not have handled all issues perfectly, but we can learn from this experience," Gokongwei told ABS-CBN TV.
The plane had departed from the capital, Manila. Cebu Pacific is the Philippines' largest low-cost carrier. It operates 33 Airbus planes and eight ATRs, and also flies on regional routes.
A similar accident occurred in 2011 when a Cebu Pacific plane overshot the runway in Puerto Princesa in western Palawan province. There were no casualties.
The Ateneo de Davao University, which had members aboard Sunday's flight, published an open letter saying it will boycott the airline to protest "the insensitivity and ineptness" of the crew.
"Your personnel lack training for an emergency situation. They froze. They did not know what do to. They must be able to put the welfare of the passengers before their own," said university President Joel Tabora.
The Philippine civil aviation sector was downgraded by the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority in 2008, and by the European Union two years later, because of safety and oversight lapses. Presidential spokesman Ricky Carandang said the government is hopeful that the latest incident will not impact an ongoing international review of the industry.