MANILA - The main runway at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) will remain closed until 12 noon Saturday to give way to debris clearing.
Eric Apolonio, spokesperson of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), said in an interview on DZMM radio that clearing operations are underway after the Chinese aircraft that went off the runway before midnight Thursday was removed and transferred to the Balabag ramp.
NAIA's runway 06/24 has been closed since the incident, prompting the cancellation of several flights and stranding thousands of passengers.
"Nagko-conduct lang 'yung MIAA (Manila International Airport Authority) ng tinatawag na clearing operations, inaalis ang mga naiwang equipment (MIAA is conducting clearing operations, removing equipment left in the area)," Apolonio said.
"They have to check the whole runway for any foreign object debris o 'yung FOD na tinatawag (or what we call FOD)... 'yan po ay delikado sa mga bababa o papanik na eroplano (that's dangerous for planes landing or taking off)," he said.
The runway's reopening was initially scheduled to 12 noon Friday but was extended several times. Telescopic cranes were used to lift the disabled aircraft early Saturday.
Thousands of travelers at NAIA faced delays after the Chinese airliner went off the runway, disrupting more than 200 flights as authorities struggled to remove the damaged plane.
All 157 passengers and eight crew members aboard the Xiamen Air Boeing 737-800 were unharmed after the accident late Thursday, according to the airline and airport officials.
Some 112 international and domestic flights were cancelled and another 118 flights delayed following the accident, based on initial lists from airlines.
The disruptions led to chaotic scenes at NAIA as travelers waited in long queues outside the terminals and at check-in desks.
Several passengers expressed their dismay on Facebook.
"This is very unfortunate for us who booked the hotel and tours," said Steph Iligan. "It can't be cancelled/refunded."
Images of the plane operated by Xiamen Air, a subsidiary of China Southern Airlines, showed it next to an airport perimeter fence with the left wing touching the ground.
Efforts to remove the 43-ton plane proved difficult, prompting authorities to bring in two cranes to try to lift it.
The plane "misapproached" on its first attempt to land and lost contact with the control tower on the second, when it skidded off the runway after touching down, said MIAA General Manager Ed Monreal.
An investigation is underway.
Airport officials said they were looking at several factors, including bad weather on Thursday night and communications between the pilot and control tower.
"Definitely there will be sanctions for airline and pilot kung sakaling (if) they violated safety procedures. We have to determine whether the accident is force majeure or pilot error," said Apolonio.
He added that the pilot has been grounded for investigation following the accident.
"Ipapatawag namin on Monday for investigation. Na-secure na namin 'yung cockpit at voice data recorder. 'Yun magiging basis kung anong nangyari (We will summon the pilot on Monday for investigation. We have secured the cockpit and voice data recorder. That will be our basis [to determine] what happened)," he said.
“The MIAA, sila po magbibigay ng sanctions diyan o damages sa nangyaring insidente (The MIAA will be the one to give sanctions or [determine the] damages because of the incident)."
Xiamen Air said in a short statement that no one was injured in the incident.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China said it had set up an investigation group and sent a team to Manila to coordinate with Philippine authorities. The regulator said it also sent a team to Xiamen Air. - with a report from Reuters