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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Near miss at airport

Near miss at airport

ABangkok Airways flight landing in Phnom Penh on April 22 had to pull out of its

landing at the last moment after the pilot spotted a pick-up truck, which was out

chasing dogs, next to the runway. The company's country representative said the control

tower neglected to inform the pilot about the vehicle.

"The pilot saw the pickup, but he was not told [about it] by the control tower.

There should be nothing beside the runway," said Santi Laonnikakra, country

manager for Bangkok Airways. "The pilot had to pull out immediately."

An air traffic controller had sent staff in the truck to catch three dogs that were

on the airfield. They parked the vehicle beside the runway near the designated landing

point but had trouble corralling the animals.

Despite the fact that international airport protocol dictates no vehicles should

be near a runway during landing, the control tower then cleared the Boeing 717-200

with 27 passengers to make its final approach.

The pilot was coming in to land when at only 500 feet he spotted the truck. He pulled

away sharply, circled and then landed safely once the runway was clear. "[The

pilot] was quite upset," said Santi. "The man in the control tower didn't

know how to inform the aircraft."

Saichon Pingsakul, training director for Cambodian Air Traffic Services, said the

experienced controller claimed he informed the pilot about the problem. The misunderstanding

could have resulted from a language barrier.

"We have to investigate and listen to the tape [recording of their conversation],"

he said.

Air safety in Cambodia was sharply criticized in a report by the International Civil

Aviation Organization in 1999. An international aviation safety expert told the Post

in February, 2001 that the situation in Cambodia was "literally one in which

we're just waiting for an accident to happen".



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