Indonesia’s Lion Air unrelated to ‘Lionair’ medevac plane that caught fire in NAIA

March 30, 2020 - 7:22 PM
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Debris of the Lion Air medical evacuation plane, that exploded during takeoff, is seen on the runway of Manila International Airport in Pasay City, Philippines March 29, 2020. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

Lion Air, an Indonesian low-cost airline, on Monday issued a statement explaining that it is not connected to the plane that was involved in an accident at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport last Sunday.

“Lion Air Group does not have an airline in the Philippines,” Lion Air’s Strategic Corporate Communications Danang Mandala Prihantoro said in a press statement quoted by Republika ID.

The carrier, under Lion Air Group, made the clarification after some international media outlets mistakenly attributed the aircraft accident to their airline.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines reported that an accident occurred at the NAIA runway on Sunday evening. It involved a West Wind 24 aircraft of Lionair Inc. bound for Haneda, Japan.

“The flight, which was on a medEvac mission to Haneda, Japan, was carrying two (2) passengers and six (6) crew members,” CAAP said in a statement.

In an interview with CNN Philippines’ The Source, Benito Atienza, Philippine Medical Association vice president, said one of the passengers of the aircraft is a patient who wanted to be transferred to Japan because there is a COVID-19 patient in the previous hospital where the patient was admitted.

The aircraft unfortunately caught fire while it was taking off at the end of Runway 24.

The CAAP said the Manila International Airport Authority Fire and Rescue team immediately responded but no passenger survived the accident.

The accident prompted temporary closure of the NAIA runway but it was reopened on Monday after the debris from the accident were cleared.

The news of the accident reached the international media outlets which mistakenly attributed the aircraft to Indonesia’s Lion Air carrier.

The  Lionair RPC5880  or West Wind 24 aircraft, however, was operated by the Lionair Inc., owned by businessman Archibald Po.

According to its website, Lionair Inc. is a partner of Advance Life Support “Life Line.”

It is  “committed to providing quality pre-hospital medical care and is equipped to immediately and efficiently provide medical airlift or air ambulance services from anywhere in the Philippines and around the region.”

The charter booking aviation business also said it “is focused on maintaining only the highest standards of quality and excellence as specified by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and other regulatory authorities.”

Philstar.com reported that Lionair’s website indicated that Westwind II can accommodate seven passengers in executive seats. It can also be configured as an air ambulance, with space for a patient, two or three members of a medical team, and one or two relatives.

This aircraft is also reportedly used to transport medical supplies.

The day after the flight accident, however, the Lionair Inc.’s website went down and can no longer be accessed as of writing.

Captain Don Mendoza, CAAP Deputy Director General, earlier said that they may order Lionair aircrafts grounded due to the incident.

In September last year, another LionAir Inc. crashed in Calamba, Laguna and left 9 dead.

In view of reports circulating online, several online users also reposted the statement of Lion Air Group in Indonesian language and informed the public that it is not related to the Philippine-based aviation business. This was also reported by Indonesian news outlets including the Jakarta Post.

“Lion Air Group operates, complies and carries out all international aviation regulations, regulators and company regulations in carrying out operations in accordance with standard operating procedures that meet the safety, security and comfort aspects of aviation (safety first),” the statement also read.

Lion Air Groups also operates Wings Air, Batik Air, Lion Bizjet, Malindo Air based in Malaysia, and Thai Lion Air based in Thailand.