s I write, SQ006 was reported to have crashed on runway 05R at Taipei's Chiang Kai Shek Airport exactly one year ago, around this time.
On 31 October 2000, I went on the internet (BBC NEWS), and saw that there was breaking news. A plane had crashed in Taiwan. In my head I thought, "Oh God it's China Airlines again." I was very mistaken. I rushed downstairs to my new cable digibox. I was gobsmacked. In front of me was the lovely Jane Hill, with the ticker below saying a Singapore Airlines 747 had crashed at Taipei. I stared at the TV for a few seconds, before rushing back upstairs to the pile of SIA timetables. Looked at flights from Taipei to Singapore...nothing. Referred to Taipei and saw that SQ6 was meant to have taken off roughly half an hour ago. I didn't know for sure though.
Anyway, i rushed back down. I couldn't believe what was happenning to be honest. I just sat and saw the information from Reuters being processed.
Upstairs, I had only three windows open. BBC, CNN and singaporeair.com which wasn't loading. Still at this moment, I couldn't believe it but I wasn't shocked or stunned, I was just sitting there, scrambling and scrounging for any sort of news I could get.
Dinner. First pictures of the crash, I'm sure many people who watched the news will remember, was of the front of the Megatop with the silver fireofficer. I was really upset when I saw it was a Tropical Megatoppy. Soon, Reuters reported that no people died. I was ecstatic.
Some passenger numbers came out but that was it. Boeing did the normal crisis routine that they always do, reporting the aircraft reg, number of hours etc...
The bad night progressed as I tuned in to watch an SIA Press Conference from LAX. James Boyd came out (not what I had expected), with no suit. I wasn't too impressed. He said something about the flight commander saying he had hit something and that there were x number of passengers but according to Taiwanese sources no one had died. A sigh of relief when I heard that.
Couldn't really concentrate on my studies so i stopped. Just watched the news, being frustrated that they weren't concentrating on something that I wanted to hear about. Urhggh.
Pictures of people in the airport started to come in. And most of them seemed OK. However the picture of the Megatop from a CI pax were shocking. The flames were very dramatic.
I went to sleep at about midnight. I gathered some thoughts. I had been an SIA fan for about 3 or 4 years. Nothing had prepared me, and I'm sure a lot of other SIA fans for what was unfolding. It seemed that SIA, the greatest airline in the world, was not invincible from disasters and crashes. It was very sad, firstly for the victims (at this point, it was quite obvious peopleperished), and the airline.
The following day, I found a good news station in Singapore called ChannelNewsAsia. I downloaded all the media reports every day. I still have them now. I saw Cheong for the first time in my life actually. He was older than I expected and the hair! Anyway, he did the best he could and it was wise of him to admit full responsibility for the accident, although in every accident there is more than one cause. I thought that was really good of him in an emotional sense, and also in a cold-hearted PR way was good as one newswire reported, it would look good if the airline accepted 100% responsibility, but at the end was only say 20% or 60% responsible.
In the morning of that day, was watching BBC NEWS, and they said the airplane was on the wrong runway. I was not impressed and was quite shocked that this could happen to SIA. At school, I was getting some flak because of that fact. I really didn't know what to do and just said "I'm sure Singapore Airlines are very sorry for what has happenned," and I just quickly left for the next lesson trying to put a brave face upon things.
The news conferences continued. The airline handled it magnificently undoubtedly. The VP Public Affairs put a human face on the airline and looked visibly moved, perhaps actually coming to human terms about what had happenned, when a man stormed in the press conference who was in a right state. Things didn't go well in these conferences though. A poor woman ordered Cheong to talk to her husband on her mobile / cellular / hand phone. It was a real sight. I think she represented what the rest of the families wanted at the time... answers.
The Straits Times, the English-speaking newspaper of Singapore, had some theories as to why the plane was crashed. Things like burst tires / tyres, lighting faults, pilot error, mechanical faliure etc... They all seemed very trivial at the time as it was just useless speculation, but speculation nonetheless.
At this point, I think I had come to terms with it all. However I was very angry at Taiwan. The investigators were fine, but with a prosecution department coming in, it just seemed so stupid and surreal. What was the point?! Were they on the witchunt? Did they need something to do? The two departments were finding the common cause, but were handling it in totally different ways. It was totally illogical to have the two there.
With regards to the arrest of the pilots, I felt very sorry for them, so did world-wide pilot's union, who threatened to boycott Taiwan. Once again, my anger at the Taiwanese (prosectitioners) boiled again as they weren't helping in the slightest.
Meanwhile, here on Airliners.net there were many views. Conflicting of course. There was much arguing, bitch-fiting, totally stupid posts, and some people who quite frankly probably wanted SIA to crash, regardless of the loss of life. That's when I joined as Khoahuynhuk.
The factual report was an interesting read. Although it didn't answer the question, why did the plane crash, it did give us some facts and eliminated some factors.
Weather and mechanical faliure were ruled out. The plane was sound, having just been under maintenance and the weather was within the plane's operating parameters.
The airport was found to be at fault. The lighting was insufficient and not up to international standards. The maps issued were out of date and therefore didn't represent the airport as normal (it displayed runway 05R as a normal runway, instead of being a taxiway ONLY), and the ATC did not look out. On top of all this, a ground radar was not there which could have prevented the accident. We've seen how a ground radar can help. The recent crash in Milan and the Tenerife accidnet both prove how valuable one can be.
The pilots were arguably at fault, though theoretically not. The PVD which is used to identify runways in Category 3 airports did not show the pilots when they used it, that the plane was on 05L (the correct runway). Instead it didn't light up at all (05R is not equipped with this function, 05L was). To use the PVD, the plane has to be at a 45 degree angle to the runway so the PVD catches the ILS of the runway. However the Captain thought he could see it fine anyway and considering TPE isn't a Category 3 airport, there was really no need. That is where most of the stick for the pilots came in. On one side one can say, how stupid, why didn't they check for sure considering the weather conditions? On the the other one can say, "Well it's not a Category 3 airport, and anyway the ATC should have checked they were on the right tunway". There are many conflicting views as to this factor, and the report which comes out this Decemeber (2001), should try to clear this up, if not clear it up completely.
SIA pilot training was 'normal' so there was no cause for concern, with the two pilots at the control being described by SIA trainers as "above average".
SIA has moved on and has implemented some self-improvement. Pilots are being payed more, most likely to increase morale. According to some pilots, morale had already increased a couple of months after the crash. Other things have been implemented however I am not aware of the specifics. However, I can safely say that it has learnt from the lessons.
The victims got $430000 in compensation, $30000 if they were only injured. Personally, this seemed good at the time, but it obviously wasn't for a lot of the families. Many lawsuits are being filed against SIA, mainly in the United States. A certain law group, whom I will certainly not advertise, and who incidentally immediately set up a site dealing with the crash only 7 hours after the accident, is handling about 40+ cases in Los Angeles. Compared to the AF compensation after the tragic Concorde crash though, the compensation seems pale, and I hope SIA gives them more.
Finally, I haven't said much about the victims. I am not a hypocrite and won't write stuff like "I know how they feel. It's such a hard time for them." Of course it is, however I'm in no position to speak for them, nor about how they are feeling. Of course it is a hard time and of course they are devestated, however I don't think anyone else outside from their situation can honestly comment.
We must also not forget the crew. Names who stand out to me include Ang Miau Lee, Suresh Anandan, Goh Boon Hwee, Alfred Lee, and the well-publicised Faranza Abdul Razak, only 19. If I remember correctly, all of them escaped the fireball, however they went back into it and either died, or hhave suffered great injury. True Singapore Boys and Girls.
My thoughts and prayers were with them then, and are with them again as we remember SQ006.
SQ006 and it's victims - R.I.P.
Anyone can fly, only the best Soar.