This Time, Please Understand NAIA
I was a bit irked earlier this morning when a media person interviewed a NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) official regarding the flight diversion that happened yesterday, after strong thunderstorms lashed Manila that led to zero visibility around the airport. Of course, I know the fact that ordinary people doesn’t understand the technicalities of airport operations…and so do I. I may not be an official or an expert in aircraft navigation nor a pilot myself, but somehow, I understand the consequences that NAIA faced yesterday. What irked me though was a seemingly sarcastic tone of “mauulit nanaman yan muli?” (“Will it ever repeat again?”). Of course it will! That is about mother nature and life and death! Its the standard operating procedure whenever Mother Nature has gone nuts! Safety over convenience!
The Filipino travelers and commuters alike already knew about the problem that NAIA has encountered in the past recent days. The VOR or VHF omnidirectional radio range is a navigational aid for the pilots for them to land the aircraft safely, especially during poor weather conditions, had broken down. I don’t like to sound techie here but this is one main goal of the said instrument. Of course, it is a critical instrument since landing, in my opinion (and based on my flight simulator experiences) has been one of the most risky, tricky and even dangerous phase in a flight of an aircraft. A lot of plane crashes in the past were due to pilot error or weather disturbance, and a big percentage of it was during approach. With this instrument, at least it would provide help for a safe landing.
Of course, given the bureaucracy that we have in this country, the facility has to endure the long periods of time…napaglulumaan na kumbaga. Given also the appropriations and the conspiracy of corruption, the multi-million dollar instrument, broke down. Of course, being a critical instrument in airport operations, it has to be replaced. But lo and behold the politics. Don’t tell me, we’re gonna get some another spanking from foreign aviation organisations?
Anyway, its a good thing they made a “first-aid” treatment by transferring the unused instrument from Subic Bay to Manila…but that too needs to be changed as soon as possible. And I hope Noynoy wouldn’t dilly-dally on this issue or its another blow in our “Philippine pride.” Worse, lives are at stake!
All right, to cut the story short, kahit anong moderno ng airport at kumpleto ang facilities at top of the class na mga air traffic controllers at piloto, kung Inang Kalikasan na ang nagbibigay ng kanyang banta’t galit, walang magagawa ang VOR-DME, ILS o kahit ano pa mang navigational aids sa airport! When the visibility is down to zero and the thunderstorm is great, there is a greater chance of having a fatal aircraft approach crash or crash landing. The possibility of microbursts or daluyong/squall is imminent and are avoided by aircraft worldwide. Ang daming bumagsak na eroplano nang dahil sa mabagsik na mukha ng isang thunderstorm na yan. Isa pa, kelangan din ng piloto kahit papaano ang tulong ng visual aids tulad ng ilaw…at dapat ding malinaw ito. Sa nasabi ko kanina, mahirap talaga ang landing, because it takes careful planning and estimating on how to safely land a plane safely. Its about the throttles, the flaps, the wind direction, the visual reference, the ailerons, the pilot, the flight attendants and most especially the lives of the passengers.
Yes, we all know about some dismal and anomalous things going on at the Philippines’ premiere gateway, but the situation yesterday was very different.
For those who felt inconvenience because of the diversion and was irked about it, I say…try to understand please. Buhay mo o ginhawa lamang? The pilot and the air traffic controller’s top priority has always been safety. Whatever technology that we have, we still cannot beat the fury of Mother Nature. The inconvenience of flight diversion and delay is a small price to pay for the safety of the passengers. Better live or have your lives being dramaticised on National Geographic’s “Air Crash Investigation.”
For some people who still view it as incompetence of NAIA–think again! Even the best airports in the world face shut down when the weather is awfully bad. Alam naman natin yun di ba? Its not about incompetence, politics or Category 2 rating of the Imperialist Yankees. Its about standard operating procedure for the safety of hundreds of lives flying over the air. So, even before the sarcasm, lets have a second look first. This time, please understand NAIA.