MANILA (UPDATE) - The Ninoy Aquino International Airport's (NAIA) main runway was reopened shortly before noon Saturday, allowing flight operations to resume.
NAIA's runway 06/24 was closed for more than 24 hours after a Chinese plane went off the runway before midnight Thursday.
The runway reopened at 11:28 a.m., the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) told reporters.
A Xiamen Air jet overshot the runway late Thursday, leading to the suspension of several flights and stranding thousands of passengers at NAIA's departure terminals.
The stalled Chinese plane was lifted by crane and towed away from the runway around 2 a.m. Saturday, CAAP said.
Affected flights are expected to depart from NAIA over the next 24 hours, said Conch Bungag, officer-in-charge at the Manila International Airport Authority's (MIAA) Public Affairs office.
Airport authorities initially said the runway would be reopened at 12 noon Friday, but moved the scheduled resumption of operations 4 times.
The reopening was first extended to 4 p.m. and then 7 p.m. Friday as the "mobilization process takes 3 hours and another 3 hours to demobilize," MIAA General Manager Ed Monreal said.
Before 7 p.m., airport authorities said the reopening would again be rescheduled to 5 a.m. Saturday as authorities had to wait for more cranes to clear the 43-ton Chinese aircraft from the runway.
It took another 6 hours before airport officials finally reopened the runway, about a day and a half after the incident.
CAAP officials said bad weather hampered clearing operations along the runway.
"Alam niyo naman na malakas ang ulan so very soggy ang mga pinupuwestuhan ng mga equipment. Hindi puwede na itaas dahil baka 'yung mga equipment naman ang bumaon," CAAP spokesperson Eric Apolonio told DZMM radio.
(We all know that there were heavy rains so the area where the equipment were placed was very soggy. They could not lift the plane immediately because the equipment might sink into the ground.)
CAAP Director General Jim Sydiongco said the plane went off the runway as the aircraft landed on its second attempt.
"Initial feedback doon sa Manila Tower, ito ay sumubok once at hindi pinagpatuloy at bumalik ulit," Sydiongco said.
(The initial feedback from the Manila Tower was that the plane tried to approach for landing once but did not push through, and then returned for a second landing attempt.)
The plane was towed to the Balabag ramp at the airport complex while investigation is ongoing, officials said.
Investigators are looking at the possibility of "hydroplaning" as the cause of the incident, Apolonio said.
Hydroplaning happens when a driver or a pilot loses control of a wheeled vessel after suddenly stepping on the brakes while cruising along a wet surface.
Authorities are still trying to figure out why and how the plane's wheels and engines came off.
The pilot of Xiamen Air flight MF 8667 has been grounded and has been barred from leaving the Philippines while authorities probe the incident, Apolonio said.
The pilot was asked to appear at CAAP on Monday, August 20, as part of its investigation, he said.
- with reports from Jacque Manabat and Arra Perez, ABS-CBN News