Singapore Airlines Flight 006

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Singapore Airlines Flight 006
The aircraft involved in the accident taxiing at Frankfurt Airport in April 1999
Accident summary
Date 31 October 2000 (2000-10-31)
Summary Attempted takeoff on closed runway; Pilot error; collision with construction equipment
Site Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, Taipei, Taiwan
25°4′35″N 121°13′26″E / 25.07639°N 121.22389°E / 25.07639; 121.22389Coordinates: 25°4′35″N 121°13′26″E / 25.07639°N 121.22389°E / 25.07639; 121.22389
Passengers 159
Crew 20
Injuries (non-fatal) 71
Fatalities 83
Survivors 96
Aircraft type Boeing 747-412
Operator Singapore Airlines
Registration 9V-SPK
Flight origin Singapore Changi Airport
Last stopover Chiang Kai-shek Int'l Airport
Destination Los Angeles Int'l Airport

Singapore Airlines Flight 006 was a scheduled passenger flight from Singapore Changi Airport to Los Angeles International Airport via Chiang Kai-shek International Airport (now Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport) in Taipei, Taiwan. On 31 October 2000, at 23:17 Taipei local time (15:17 UTC), a Boeing 747-412 operating the flight, attempted to take off from the wrong runway at Chiang Kai-shek International Airport during a typhoon. The aircraft crashed into construction equipment on the runway, killing 83 of the 179 occupants aboard.[1]

Aircraft and crew[edit]

The aircraft involved in the accident was a Boeing 747-412, registered as 9V-SPK with manufacturer's serial number 28023, powered by four Pratt & Whitney PW4056 engines. It was the 1099th Boeing 747 built and had been delivered to Singapore Airlines on 21 January 1997. It had its last maintenance check on 16 September 2000, and had no defects.[2]

The captain of the flight was Foong Chee Kong (41). He was a very experienced pilot with more than 11,200 hours of total flying time to his credit. He was considered a competent, above average pilot and had logged just over 2,000 hours in Boeing 747-400 aircraft. His first officer was Latiff Cyrano (36), who had more than 2,400 total flight hours. The third member of the crew was Relief Pilot Ng Kheng Leng (38). He had approximately 5,500 total flight hours.[3]

Crash[edit]

At 15:00 UTC, 23:00 Taipei local time on 31 October 2000,[4] 9V-SPK left Bay B5[5] during heavy rain caused by Typhoon Xangsane. At 23:05:57, the CKS Airport cleared the aircraft to taxi to runway 05L via "taxiway Sierra Sierra West Cross" and "November Papa".[5] At 23:15:22, the airport cleared the aircraft to takeoff at 05L.[5] Many carriers in Southeast and East Asia take off during inclement weather.[6]

After a six-second hold, at 23:16:36, the crew attempted takeoff on runway 05R – which had been closed for repairs – instead of the assigned runway 05L (which runs parallel to 05R). The captain correctly heard that he needed to take off at 05L, but he turned 215 metres (705 ft) too soon and lined up with 05R.[7] The airport was not equipped with ASDA, a ground radar which allows the airport controllers to monitor aircraft movements on the ground.[8]

Diagram of Chiang Kai-shek International Airport and the taxi path of Singapore Airlines Flight 006. The dotted green line indicates the correct path to Runway 05L. The yellow arrow indicates the path to Runway 05R. The red path indicates the fatal takeoff path.

Due to poor visibility in the heavy rain, the flight crew did not see that construction equipment, including two excavators, two vibrating rollers, one small bulldozer, and one air compressor,[4] had been parked on runway 05R. In addition, the runway contained concrete jersey barriers and pits.[5] About 41 seconds later,[5] the aircraft collided with the machinery and broke into pieces. The fuselage was torn in two, and the engines and landing gear separated.[5] A crane tore the left wing from the aircraft, forcing the jet back onto the ground.[9] The nose struck a scoop loader.[10] A large fire followed, destroying the forward section of the fuselage and the wings.[5] 79 of 159 passengers and 4 of 20 crew members died in the accident. Many of the dead were seated in the middle section of the aircraft;[4] the fuel stored in the wings exploded and sent balls of flame through that section.[11] At 23:17:36, the emergency bell sounded. 41 fire fighting vehicles, 58 ambulances, 9 lighting units, and 436 personnel were dispatched to assist survivors and extinguish the fire. Chemical extinguishing agents rained on the aircraft at about three minutes after the impact.[5] At 23:35, roughly 10 minutes after the impact, the fire was brought under control.[5] At 23:40, non-airport ambulances and emergency vehicles from other agencies congregated at the north gate. At 00:00 Taipei time on 1 November, the fire was mostly extinguished and the front part of the aircraft was destroyed. Authorities established a temporary command centre.[5]

A passenger of China Airlines Flight 004 recorded a video of Singapore Airlines Flight 006 on fire.[12]

Casualties[edit]

Rescuers retrieving a casualty from the wreckage.

179 passengers and crew,[13] including 3 children and 3 infants,[12] were on the aircraft at the time of the crash. Of the 179 occupants, 83 were killed, 39 suffered from serious injuries, 32 had minor injuries, while 25 were uninjured.[14] Amongst those who perished, there were 4 crew members. 79 passengers and crew died on impact and immediately after the crash and 2 passengers died at a hospital.[11]

The passengers mostly consisted of Taiwanese and Americans.[15]

Nationalities of passengers and crew[edit]

Nationality Passengers Crew Total
Total Killed Total Killed Total Killed
 Australia 1 0 0 0 1 0
 Cambodia 1 0 0 0 1 0
 Canada 1 0 0 0 1 0
 Germany 1 0 0 0 1 0
 India 11 10 0 0 11 10
 Indonesia 5 1 0 0 5 1
 Ireland 1 0 0 0 1 0
 Japan 1 1 0 0 1 1
 Malaysia 8 4 1 0 9 4
 Mexico 3 0 0 0 3 0
 Netherlands 1 1 0 0 1 1
 New Zealand 2 0 0 0 2 0
 Philippines 1 1 0 0 1 1
 Singapore 11 8 17 4 28 12
 Spain 1 0 0 0 1 0
 Republic of China (Taiwan) 55 26 2 0 57 26
 Thailand 2 0 0 0 2 0
 United Kingdom 4 2 0 0 4 2
 United States 47 24 0 0 47 24
 Vietnam 2 1 0 0 2 1
Total 159 79 20 4 179 83

Amongst the Singaporeans who perished were Mrs. Elma Thwaites, mother of Singapore Turf Club horse-trainer Malcolm Thwaites, Dr. Sung Kah Kay, assistant professor of the National University of Singapore's Department of Computer Science,[16][17] and Captain Lim Kim Hock, a Republic of Singapore Air Force pilot on his way to the Air National Guard to attend the Advanced Fighter Weapons Instructor Course.[18] In addition, four of the dead were Motorola employees.[19][20] Sung's wife, Jennifer Loo (a.k.a. Loo Tak Wing), also died on the flight.[21]

Amongst perished passengers of other nationalities were the president and two vice-presidents of Buena Park, California-based Ameripec Inc.[22] Kevin Rice, a professor at UC Davis, survived the crash with more than 12% of his body burned,[23] as did John Diaz, a vice-president of MP3.com, who survived the crash with injuries not related to burns.[24] William Wang, who later founded Vizio, survived with only carbon monoxide poisoning.[25]

Origin of passengers and crew and types of injuries sustained[edit]

Diagram of 9V-SPK illustrating crew and passenger seat locations, lack of injury, severity of injuries, and deaths.

The captain, co-pilot and relief pilot originated from Singapore on 30 October SQ 006, rested at a hotel in Taipei, and boarded 31 October SQ 006.[4] The crew consisted of 12 males and 8 females.[13] All three flight crew survived the crash. The co-pilot received minor injuries. The pilot and relief pilot sustained no injuries.[4] Of the 17 cabin crew members, 4 died, 4 received serious injuries, and 9 received minor injuries.[4]

Of the passengers, 79 died, 35 received serious injuries, 22 received minor injuries, and 23 were uninjured.[4]

The aircraft had 5 first-class passengers, 28 business-class passengers (9 on lower deck and 19 on upper deck), and 126 economy-class passengers.[4][26] Of the first class passengers, 1 received a minor injury and 4 received no injuries. Of the business-class passengers, 14 (2 on lower deck, 12 on upper deck) died, 2 (1 on lower deck, 1 on upper deck) received serious injuries, 7 (2 on lower deck, 5 on upper deck) received minor injuries, and 8 (4 on lower deck, 4 on upper deck) were uninjured. Of the economy class passengers, 65 died, 33 received serious injuries, 14 received minor injuries, and 11 were uninjured.[4] The lower deck passengers who died were seated in rows 22 through 38.[4][27] 64 of 76 passengers in the forward economy section were killed by the explosion of the centre fuel tank, which resulted in intense fire.[28] In the upper deck of the business class section, 12 of 19 passengers and 1 of 2 flight attendants died due to smoke inhalation and fire;[28] 10 bodies, originating from the upper deck of business class, were found between the stairwell and the 2L exit on the main deck.[29] All passengers in the aft economy section survived.[28]

Of the passengers on the TPE-LAX leg, 77 flew from Singapore and 82 flew from Taipei. Of the passengers originating from Singapore, 37 died. Of the passengers originating from Taipei, 42 died. Of the three male passengers identified as infants, including two Indians originated from Singapore and one Taiwanese originated from Taipei, all three died.

The Department of Forensic Pathology Institute of Foreign Medicine, Ministry of Justice performed seven autopsies. One person died from impact injuries, and six people died from severe burns.[4] Many passengers on the flight sustained burns since jet fuel splashed onto the passengers.[30]

Lin Ming-liang, a 45-year-old Taiwanese passenger bearing burns to more than 86% of his body, died of his injuries at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Linkou, Taipei County (now New Taipei City) on Sunday 5 November 2000.[31] Lee Suet Yee,[32] a hospitalised Singaporean woman bearing burns to 95% of her body, died of her injuries in a Taiwanese hospital on 24 November 2000.[33][34]

Diaz did not receive burns; he received lung damage and "body shock," which resulted in compressed joints with soft tissue damage.[24] When Diaz appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, he used a walker.[35]

A Taiwanese couple who survived the incident stated that they chose to fly Singapore Airlines because of the airline's safety record.[36]

Investigation findings[edit]

SQ006 9V-SPK; the broken off tail section of the aircraft.

An investigation into the accident was conducted by the Aviation Safety Council (ASC) of the Republic of China. The final report was issued by the ASC on 24 April 2002. In the report section "Findings Related to Probable Causes," which detailed factors that played a major role in the circumstances leading to the accident, it was stated that the flight crew did not review the taxi route, despite having all the relevant charts, and as a result did not know the aircraft had entered the wrong runway. Upon entering the wrong runway, the flight crew had neglected to check the paravisual display (PVD) and the primary flight display (PFD), which would have indicated that the aircraft was lined up on the wrong runway. According to the ASC, these errors, coupled with the imminent arrival of the typhoon and the poor weather conditions, caused the flight crew to lose situational awareness and led them to attempt to take off from the wrong runway.[37]

Notification of details[edit]

Immediately after the accident occurred, James Boyd,[30] a Singapore Airlines spokesperson in Los Angeles, stated that no fatalities occurred in the crash;[11][38][39] the airline statement was later revised to state that fatalities occurred.

The airline initially stated that reports of the aircraft taking the wrong runway were untrue before the fact that the wrong runway was used was proven true.[40]

Khan Mahmood, an Atlanta man whose sister and parents died on SQ006, criticised the airline for taking too much time to notify relatives.[41]

A counselling center opened at Los Angeles International Airport to deal with relatives of passengers.[42]

Relatives of victims provided blood samples to identify bodies.[43]

Contesting investigation findings[edit]

The report by ASC was deemed controversial by Singapore's Ministry of Transport,[44] Singapore Airlines and the International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations (IFALPA), among others.[citation needed]

Singaporean officials protested that the report did not present a full account of the incident and was incomplete, as responsibility for the accident appeared to have been placed mainly on the flight crew of SQ006, while other equally valid contributing factors had been played down. The team from Singapore that participated in the investigation felt that the lighting and signage at the airport did not measure up to international standards. Some critical lights were missing or not working. No barriers or markings were put up at the start of the closed runway, which would have alerted the flight crew that they were on the wrong runway. The Singapore team felt that these two factors were given less weight than was proper, as another flight crew had almost made the same mistake of using runway 05R to take off days before the accident.[citation needed]

Singapore Airlines also issued a statement after the release of the ASC report. In their statement, Singapore Airlines reiterated the points brought up by the Singapore investigators and added that air traffic control (ATC) did not follow their own procedure when they gave clearance for SQ006 to take off despite ATC's not being able to see the aircraft. Singapore Airlines also clarified that the paravisual display (PVD) was meant to help the flight crew maintain the runway centreline in poor visibility, rather than to identify the runway in use.[45]

The statement by Kay Yong (T: 戎 凱, P: Rēng Kǎi), managing director of the Republic of China's Aviation Safety Council, implied that pilot error played a major role in the crash of the Boeing 747-400, which led to the deaths of 83 people. He stated that the airport should have placed markers stating that the runway was closed to takeoffs and landings.[46]

In general, airport runways that are closed are not normally lighted, to make it clear they are not in use. At Chiang Kai-Shek International Airport, a single switch controlled green lights on the common taxiway to both runways and on the centreline of runway 05R. Civil Aeronautics Administration Deputy Director Chang Kuo-cheng said runway 05L was fully lit on Tuesday night by white and yellow lights and only the green centreline lighting was illuminated on closed runway 05R. On the taxiway to the runways, four large signs point the way to runway 05L, he added, and he refused to state explicitly that pilot error was the primary cause of the mix-up.[citation needed]

Runway 05R was not blocked off by barriers because part of the strip was used by landing planes to taxi back to the airport terminal. The pilot confirmed twice with the control tower that he was on the correct runway; controllers did not know the plane had actually gone on to the wrong runway because the airport lacked ground radar and the plane was out of sight of the tower at the time of its takeoff.[4]

Actions of flight crew and flight attendants[edit]

John Wiggans, a survivor of the crash, stated in a USA Today article that the staff were unable to help the passengers escape from the aircraft due to being frozen by fear and/or due to lack of competence in emergency procedures; Wiggans was seated in the upper deck business class area.[47] The Straits Times carried reports of flight attendants saving lives of passengers.[48][49] One story from the newspaper stated that Irene Ang (a.k.a. Ang Miau Lee) escaped the crash, ran back into the aircraft to attempt to save passengers, and died.[50]

The Australian reported that some flight attendants helped passengers and some flight attendants fled the aircraft before all passengers were accounted for.[47] Genevieve Jiang of The Electric New Paper stated that the pilots attempted to help the passengers.[51]

The Taiwanese report stated that the relief pilot (Crew Member 3, or CM-3) said in an interview that he was the first to leave the cockpit and the last to leave the aircraft[4] (Pg. 108/508). A passenger sitting in seat 17A stated that the Right Upper Deck Door flight attendant directed him to the main deck via the stairs. The flight attendant died[4] (Pg. 108/508).

Upper deck passengers and flight attendants stated that the Crew-In-Charge flight attendant (CIC) travelled upstairs after the first impact; the Crew-In-Charge flight attendant died[4] (Pg. 109/508).

The 3R and 3L flight attendants died; they were seated in the middle of the aircraft[4] (Pg. 110/508).

Aftermath[edit]

9V-SPL in tropical livery
9V-SPL, the sister aircraft of 9V-SPK, still wearing tropical livery in November 2000, taxiing at Charles de Gaulle Airport in November 2000
9V-SPL in normal livery
After the crash, 9V-SPL's tropical livery was removed. The aircraft at its hub in Singapore Changi Airport

After the release of the ASC report, Republic of China public prosecutors called upon the flight crew of SQ006 to return to the ROC for questioning and the three-member crew complied. Rumours abounded at the time that the pilots might be detained in the ROC and charged with negligence. IFALPA had previously stated that it would advise its members of the difficulties of operating into the ROC if the flight crew of SQ006 were prosecuted. The prosecutors did not press charges and the flight crew were allowed to leave the ROC.[citation needed]

Singapore Airlines changed the flight route designation to SQ030 immediately after the incident, and then later to SQ028. The TPE-LAX route was operated by Boeing 777 aircraft until its cancellation on 1 October 2008. Flights to Los Angeles continue to be served with a stopover at Tokyo Narita Airport as Flight SQ12.

The accident aircraft 9V-SPK was painted in Singapore Airlines special promotion livery, a scheme called "Tropical", at the time of the accident. The special livery was intended to promote Singapore Airlines new first class and new business class products. After the accident, 9V-SPK's sister aircraft, 9V-SPL, the only other aircraft painted with the promotional livery, was immediately removed from service and repainted with standard Singapore Airlines livery. No special promotion livery has been introduced on any Singapore Airlines's aircraft since the accident except for Star Alliance livery.

Dozens of survivors and relatives of those killed filed lawsuits against the airline and ROC authorities.[52] Despite a Taiwanese High Prosecutor's decision to not prosecute the pilots for the first three years after the crash, Singapore Airlines subsequently fired the captain and first officer in 2002.[53]

The Association of Asian American Yale Alumni named the Tina E. Yeh Community Service Fellowship program after Tina Eugenia Yeh, an American who boarded SQ006 in Taipei and died.[54][55]

Runway 05R at TPE has been converted to taxiway NC and runway 05L has been renamed to runway 05.[56] Ground radar has also been installed at the airport.

Repatriation of bodies[edit]

By 8 November 2000, several bodies were scheduled to be repatriated. Of the bodies:[57]

  • 19, including 14 Americans, 3 Taiwanese, and 2 Indians, were repatriated to the United States
  • 13, including 11 Singaporeans, 1 British, and 1 American, were repatriated to Singapore
  • 10, including 8 Indians and 2 Americans, were repatriated to India
  • 4 were repatriated to Malaysia[58]
  • 3 Americans were repatriated to Canada
  • 1 was repatriated to Indonesia[58]
  • 1 was repatriated to Japan[58]
  • 1 was repatriated to the Netherlands[58]
  • 1 was repatriated to the United Kingdom
  • 1 was repatriated to Vietnam[58]

The bodies of 14 Taiwanese passengers and the others remained in Taipei to be collected by relatives.[57]

Hospitalization and release of survivors[edit]

By 2 November 2000, 40 passengers and crew were hospitalised, of whom 11 were later released that night.[59] On 5 November 2000, 34 passengers and crew remained hospitalised. 64 were discharged from the hospitals.[60] Lin Ming-liang, a Taiwanese passenger, died that day. On 8 November 2000, 24 passengers and crew remained hospitalised: 20 in the Republic of China (Taiwan), 3 in Singapore and 1 in United States.[57] The Republic of Singapore Air Force deployed a specially configured KC-135R for the medical evacuation of critical Singaporean victims. 73 survivors, 40 who were not hospitalised and 33 who were discharged, had either returned home or continued with their travel.

Media[edit]

The film Thread That Binds includes an interview of Farzana Abdul Razak, a surviving flight attendant.[61]

The Mayday episode titled "Caution to the Wind" featured the process of the investigation.

See also[edit]

  • Air safety
  • Comair Flight 5191, which crashed near Lexington, Kentucky, after using the wrong runway for takeoff.
  • Western Airlines Flight 2605, a very similar accident where the left and right runways were confused, although this flight was landing—not taking off. As with the Singapore Air accident, the adjacent runway was closed, and there was a collision with construction equipment.


References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Investigation reports
Singapore Airlines press statements
Court documents
Cockpit voice recorder data
News and media articles