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Crash victims await payout

Crash victims await payout

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FLIGHT 815

No compensation yet for one of the two survivors of the Vietnam Airlines crash, Sept 3, 1997.

ONE of the two survivors of last September's Air Vietnam crash near Pochentong airport is still waiting to hear about compensation from the airline.

Vu Hung Thinh, 4, was plucked from the wreckage and whisked to a hospital just in time. His mother perished along with 63 other passengers and crew.

The only other survivor was a 14-month-old Thai boy who suffered broken legs.

The legal adviser for Thinh's family, Bretton Scarioni, said that negotiations were continuing with the Singaporean solicitors for the airline but no resolution has yet been reached. He said that till there was a resolution neither he nor the boy's father could comment about the case.

However it is understood that some other victims' families have already been paid out, though there have been concerns that the airline has put an artificially low value on compensation payouts.

There had been debate between the airline and Phnom Penh officials over who was to blame for the crash.

The airline had said navigational equipment at the airport was out of order and the Phnom Penh control tower gave the pilots incorrect information prior to take-off.

But a report by Cambodia's Aircraft Accident Investigation Committee made public last week puts the blame solely on pilot error.

The report concludes that the principal factors in the accident were that:

- the captain did not follow the instructions of the approach controller and he continued to descend in very bad weather;

- the captain ignored the advice of the first officer and the flight engineer;

- the captain's insistence in engaging the auto pilot even after passing the minimum height at which one should decide whether or not to land;

- the captain's impulsive actions to continue his approach in the conditions revealed "his psychological unreadiness to abort the landing and go around".

The report's findings are based on information from the cockpit voice recorder and data from the black box as well as information from the aircraft's Russian manufacturers and the airline.

The report details the aircraft's course from take off in Ho Chi Minh City to its eventual crash in a field near Pochentong airport.

It says that the flight was normal until near Phnom Penh where bad weather had set in.

The control tower issued instructions for the pilot to land at runway 5 because of a wind change but instead the pilot went into a descent for runway 23 which runs in the opposite direction.

The plane kept descending till it was 60 meters above the ground but they could not see the runway.

At that point the first officer, Hoang Van Dinh, 49, asked the captain, Pham Van Tieu, to pull up and abort the landing. The captain said to "wait a little". They then descended to 30 meters, still with no sight of the runway. At this point the first officer and the flight engineer again asked the captain to turn back but four seconds later they hit a tree.

The plane at that time was not in line with the runway. It had veered further to the left across the corner of the military airport. One engine stopped; the plane then tilted to the left and hit the ground at 270 kph.

An examination of the aircraft and records showed there was no mechanical problem with it and all the maintenance was up to date. The crew all had valid licenses and medical certificates.

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