‘Escort vehicle remained still’


PUTRAJAYA: A preliminary report released by the Transport Ministry on the Sultan Abdul Aziz Airport runway accident that killed a worker showed that his escort vehicle did not move despite attempts to warn of an incoming aircraft.

According to the report, a contractor’s workers, upon seeing the landing lights of an aircraft approaching, boarded their vehicle and drove away from the runway.

“While making a 180-degree turn, the driver realised that the escorting vehicle was still static at the same position.

“Based on witnesses’ statement, they flashed their headlights several times to attract the escort vehicle’s attention.

“No response was observed from the escort vehicle and as the aircraft was getting closer to them, the driver drove his vehicle away from the runway and stopped at a taxiway to give way to the aircraft to land,” according to the report.

The 3.20am accident on March 18 involved an airport engineering vehicle and a private aircraft.

The driver of the vehicle was Malaysian Air­ports Holdings Bhd em­­ployee Mohd Ruzaimi Iskandar Ahmad Razali, 39, who later succumbed to his serious injuries. The private jet, belonging to Berjaya Air, was on a chartered flight from Jaipur, India, with eight passengers on board.

Transport Minister Anthony Loke (pic), who read out the report to the media yesterday, said at 12.50am on March 18, the air traffic controller on duty allowed a vehicle to enter Runway 15 for light maintenance work and that communication between the vehicle and the tower was on walkie-talkie.

At 1am, two vehicles comprising an escort vehicle and a maintenance vehicle entered the runway to do painting and at 2.15am, the control tower received a request from the maintenance vehicle to vacate the runway as their work had been completed.

The air traffic controller on duty recorded that maintenance work was done and all vehicles had vacated the runway, despite the two other vehicles still painting.

To a question, Loke said the driver’s seat of the escort vehicle was found to be in a reclined position but pointed out that it was too early to determine if Ruzaimi Iskandar had been sleeping when the accident happened.

“Investigators have not come to any conclusion yet. We can esta­blish that the seat was reclined backwards. We, however, cannot ascertain if the driver was asleep.

“It is too early to make a conclusion now and it will be unfair to the driver,” he said, adding that the two air traffic controllers on duty that night had been suspended pending investigation.

He also said that a further study would be conducted to determine if having one air traffic controller on duty at the Subang Control Tower during midnight shift was sufficient.

“But to put things in perspective, the single air traffic controller is for the 12am to 6.30am shift. That’s the midnight shift and there’s minimum activity at this airport.

“We don’t want to give the wrong impression to the public that Subang Control Tower only has one controller,” he added.

Loke said that during the shift, no commercial flights were operating from the airport, with only occasional private jets landing after midnight.

Preliminary findings, he said, showed that the air crew were properly licensed and that the landing was done legitimately after achieving clearance.