Key findings and the methods used to produce them spark the wrath of island republic's transport ministry

Singapore has taken "serious" issue with the Taiwan Aviation Safety Council's (ASC) final report into the October 2000 crash of a Singapore Airlines (SIA) Boeing 747-400, which is critical of the airline and the city-state's oversight.

SIA, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and Taiwan's CAA are criticised, but Singapore's transport ministry rejects many of the ASC's key findings and questions the way they were produced.

It also dismisses ASC criticisms of CAAS's oversight and says the report focuses too much on errors made by the pilots and not enough on deficiencies at Taipei airport.

The 747 crashed on take-off from Chiang Kai-shek (CKS) Airport at 23:17h on 31 October, 2000, as a typhoon was approaching.

Although cleared for departure from runway 05L, the three-man cockpit crew mistakenly turned early from the taxiway on to parallel runway 05R, which was closed for construction work. The 747 struck heavy machinery on its take-off roll, bursting into flames as it broke apart and killing 83 of the 179 people on board.

Several reasons are given by the ASC for why the crew should have realised they had lined up on the wrong runway, including signs and markings on the runway and taxiway, taxiway lights leading to 05L, the green colour of centreline lights on 05R and the width difference between the runways.

Runway 05R edge lights were also "most likely not on", lighting configuration differences should have been noticed, and the aircraft's para-visual display indicated the 747 was not properly aligned with 05L.

In addition, the crew did not sufficiently review the taxi route and "none of the flightcrew members confirmed orally which runway they had entered", says the ASC.

ASC managing director and chief investigator Kay Yong adds: "There are many resources the flightcrew could have used, but did not. If they had used any one of them properly, or simply used them, it would have prevented this accident."

The investigation found SIA's 747-400 operations manual did not include procedures for low-visibility taxiing operations and there was no formal training for this.

"The SIA training and procedures for low-visibility taxi operations did not ensure that the flightcrew possessed the appropriate level of knowledge and skills to accurately navigate the aircraft on the ground," the ASC says.

CKS Airport had "a number of items that did not meet the level of internationally accepted standards and recommended practices", although "the absence of these enhancements was not deemed sufficient to have caused the loss of situational awareness of the crew".

CAAS also "had not performed sufficient safety oversight of SIA's procedures and training". Deficiencies "were not discovered during routine CAAS safety oversight".

South Korean prosecutors are not allowing Capt Wu Xinlu, pilot of the Air China Boeing 767-200ER that crashed while trying to land at Busan Airport on 15 April killing 126 people, to leave the country. He is being detained while a criminal investigation is conducted.

Source: Flight International