CAAP grounds Lionair fleet; flags two fatal crashes in 7 months

Aviation Updates Philippines – The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) grounded Monday the entire fleet of Lionair, Inc. (not to be confused with Indonesian low-cost carrier Lion Air) after having been involved in two fatal air crashes in September 2019 and on March 2020.
FATAL AIR CRASH. Aviation authorities scour the crash site of the Westwind air ambulance flight on Sunday evening. Photo from the Associated Press.
“Right now the initial action that we are looking into is grounding the whole fleet. It’s quite alarming. We will be looking at the records deeply of Lionair,” CAAP Deputy Director General Donald Mendoza told the media on the night of the accident.

The country's umbrella aviation agency flagged the company's involvement in two fatal accidents in almost seven months. Last year, a Beechcraft B300 King Air 350 crashed while also performing a medical evacuation flight from Dipolog to Manila, killing all nine aboard.

“Definitely we will have a thorough investigation to this and we will advise that the actions to be taken,” Mendoza added.

On Sunday evening, an IAI 1124A Westwind II (with registry RP-C5880) took off from Manila for Tokyo-Haneda when it experienced a "technical problem", burst into flames, and crashed past the Runway 24 threshold—a few meters away from the South Luzon Expressway.

Eight people composed of health professionals, the patient, and the flight crew figured in the crash. The flight was on a privately chartered medical evacuation mission to transport a patient overseas. Authorities have not yet disclosed the reason why.

As of the moment, CAAP and its Aircraft Accident Investigation Board (AAIB) continue to investigate the cause of the crash. The flight data recorder of the involved aircraft was already recovered; it will be sent to Singapore, Japan, or Australia for analysis, according to CAAP Spokesperson Erik Apolinario's interview with DZMM.

Commenting on the probable reasons on what caused the crash, Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Ed Monreal said it was "too early to speculate." Investigation on air crashes usually takes several months at least.

Meanwhile, the crash prompted the closure of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport's only active runway for more than eight hours. Monreal remarked, as of last night, only one flight was affected by the suspension of operations, noting that most of the airlines have ceased flying due to COVID-19.

NAIA was reopened at around 4:20 am, according to GMA News, citing MIAA.