Turkish Airlines under fire for plane crash response

26th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

Turkish government and the airline are under fire for their initial announcement that all had survived in the Amsterdam plane crash.

ISTANBUL – Turkish Airlines and the government faced a welter of criticism Thursday for their "amateurish" response to a deadly plane crash near Amsterdam, as papers ridiculed their initial denial of fatalities.

The carrier's chief executive and the transport minister both announced shortly after Wednesday's crash that all 127 passengers and seven crew had survived, even while Dutch emergency services were still gathering nine bodies.

The popular Vatan newspaper called the announcement a "scandal," while Aksam said the crash aftermath "turned from celebration to torture" for relatives of those onboard.

The liberal Radikal slammed the Turkish Airlines (THY) and the government for the "amateurish" handling of the emergency and mocked that their crisis desks caused a separate "crisis".

Turkey's trade union of air workers, Hava-Is, said "the respectability of the THY and the whole aviation sector was damaged."

The Boeing 737-800, en route from Istanbul to Amsterdam, crashed into a muddy field as it came in to land at Schiphol airport, breaking into pieces.

The three pilots were among the dead.

More than 80 people were injured, with six in critical condition.

Survivors said everything happened in a flash at the end of a seemingly normal flight, while witnesses described seeing the tail hit the edge of a busy road and drag along the ground before the plane broke into three.

Witnesses, quoted by Dutch media, saw the plane gliding the final distance to the runway without its engines, its tail angled towards the ground.

The engines were found some 100 metres from the wreckage. There was no fire.

Turkish Transport Minister Binali Yildirim described the low death toll as a "miracle," while some Turkish aviation experts said the crash-landing was a masterful pilotage manoeuvre that saved the lives of the majority on board.

"We owe our lives to the pilots," one survivor, Hasret Demir, told Aksam.

Turkish Airlines has long been one of the most prestigious companies in the country's public sector.

The company - member of the world's largest airline network, the Star Alliance - has grown steadily, increasing the number of its passengers by 89 percent to 19,646,000 from 2003 to 2007, according to company figures.

Its fleet currently includes 129 planes flying to about 140 destinations.

Its previous deadly accident was in 2003 when a domestic flight to the southeastern city of Diyarbakir crashed on landing, claiming 74 lives. Three people survived the crash.

AFP / Expatica

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