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],"
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".