KUALA LUMPUR: Passengers onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH2718 which skidded on landing at the Sibu Airport last Saturday were safe as the aircraft captain handled the situation well, say aviation experts.
They concurred that the pilot succeeded in steering the Boeing 737-800 aircraft carrying 61 passengers and six crew, by reducing the risk of accident despite facing bad weather.
Prof Mohd Harridon Mohamed Suffian believed the captain had made precise technical calculations before making the decision to land the aircraft.
“The decision should be made based on mathematical calculations taking into consideration the length of the runway and the coefficient of friction between the wet runway and aircraft tyres.
“Data on the length of the runway is available in the data sheet at the aircraft cockpit. For me, I would also consider the brake force needed to stop the plane on a wet runway,” he told Bernama.
“If the calculations show the aircraft does not have the full capability to stop within the runway range, I will attempt to land in another airport,” said Harridon, who is also a test pilot with Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL).
It was reported that flight MH2718 from Kuala Lumpur had skidded while landing in Sibu Airport during heavy rain on Saturday night but there were no casualty. All passengers safely disembarked via two evacuation slides and investigations were conducted to determine the cause of incident.
Several passengers claimed the runaway was clogged and they heard the sound of brakes being applied before the aircraft skidded and stopped. Passengers said the pilot had acted professionally in such adverse circumstances for everyone’s safety.
Harridon said when an aircraft skidded, the standard operating procedure was to activate the evacuation slides after coming to a halt.
He said the flight crew should also count and ensure all passengers disembarked from the plane and the pilot should ensure all engines were switched off to reduce the risk of fire.
Sharing the view was Captain Abdul Rahmat Omar Haniff who described the move to land the aircraft as a good decision compared with other choices available, such as circulating longer in the air.
“When an aircraft skids, the pilot has to use the foot brake alternatively to reduce skids with speedbrakes on the wings while applying brakes on the tyres and using the thrust reverser to slow down the plane.
“Circulating in the air to wait for better weather is another alternative but it will burn more fuel. The other choice is to land at another airport where the weather is fine,” said the former Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) investigating officer.
Asked on the measures to be taken in a similar situation, Rahmat said if the rain was extremely heavy, the airport management should get personnel to check the runway surface and advise the air traffic control and airlines concerned on whether to land or proceed to another airport.
Rain or snow on runway
Another aviation expert-cum-local pilot who declined to be identified said if an aircraft skidded off the runway, it was usually due to the runway contaminated by rain or snow.
“The right thing to do is to evacuate the aircraft as quickly as possible and get the passengers somewhere safe, which was most probably what they did,” he said.
According to him, pilots should have at least one alternate airport to land in case they could not land at their destination airport.
He said most pilots assessed their destination airport first, on whether it was suitable to land or not and they would decide where to land.
“In this case, the pilots decided that the runway was safe enough for landing. Landing on a wet runway is a normal thing to do. We can see airplanes landing in rain every day.
“It is safe and pilots are well trained to do that. It’s just unfortunate that their airplane skidded uncontrollably and went off the runway. If I were the pilot, I would have probably done the same thing,” he added.
It was reported the incident involving the skidding of a Malaysia Airlines aircraft upon landing at the Sibu Airport last Saturday night was still under investigation.
The Transport Ministry’s Air Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) director Yahaya Abdul Rahman said two AAIB officers were there to investigate the incident involving Flight MH2718, and it was conducted in accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Annex 13.