PAL says bird strikes pose safety risk at NaiaBy Paolo G. Montecillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) said the country may never earn an upgrade from the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) due to the prevalence of birds and the resulting bird strikes near and around the Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia).
PAL president Ramon S. Ang said the small mangrove forest beside Coastal Road in Las Piñas, declared a sanctuary by the previous administration in 2007, posed a risk to the millions of travelers that fly out of Naia every year.
“It’s only here in the Philippines that you will see a bird sanctuary so close to the airport. That endangers the life of all passengers that go to Naia,” Ang said.
His comments came after several wild ducks were sucked into the engine of a PAL flight leaving for Tacloban last Wednesday. The plane had to abort its take off, and fortunately, no one was hurt.
Ang said passengers and crew members on the Tacloban flight should consider themselves lucky. He said ducks and other birds have been known to cause plane crashes in the past—taking down even the biggest commercial planes.
“What if this happens immediately after take-off, to a plane headed to the US that has over 400 people?” Ang asked, adding that policymakers should move to avert air strikes.
He said the decision to declare the Las Piñas mangrove area as a wildlife sanctuary was ill-advised, considering the number of lives it puts at risk. About 5,000 migratory birds can be seen at the mangrove forest at any given day. “Have you seen that place? There’s so much garbage there. That’s why all the birds go there,” Ang said.
He said the presence of the bird sanctuary near the airport would be enough for the FAA not to upgrade the Philippines to Category 1 status—reflecting compliance with international aviation safety standards.
The country’s current Category 2 status means local airlines are barred from expanding operations in the US.
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