A handful of foreigners on Wednesday afternoon salvaged twin wing engines from the plane that veered off the runway in Ratanakkiri province on Monday, while a group of Cambodians cut the body of the plane to pieces, a witness said.
Provincial Airport Police Chief Mao Moly said by telephone that Royal Phnom Penh Airways, which owned the plane, was keeping the seats, propellers and wheels, but had sold the body of the plane for about $10,000 to a local scrap merchant.
Royal Phnom Penh Airways Engineering Manager Pich Lun denied this was the case, saying the plane was dismantled so it could be transported back to the capital.
“Everything will be transported to Phnom Penh,” he said, though he did not say what the pieces would be used for. “If we do not take it apart, how can we transport it?”
He declined to comment on possible causes of the crash until the conclusion of official investigations by the secretariat of civil aviation.
On Wednesday, the Progress Multitrade Co, or PMT air, flight between Phnom Penh and Ratanakkiri had fewer passengers than its 52 seats. PMT sold tickets for Monday’s flight that crashed, but had sourced the aircraft and the crew from Royal Phnom Penh Airways.
“The number of passengers flying with the company had visibly decreased,” Mao Moly said.
“Many passengers returned their tickets for money.”
PMT Director Sar Sareth said 38 people flew to the province on Wednesday and 29 returned to the capital.
PMT and Royal Phnom Penh staff have denied claims by passengers that Monday’s flight was carrying more passengers than it should have been.
An official from another airline who declined to be named said it is still common practice to overload flights in Cambodia, which is ultimately left to the discretion of the pilot, who more often than not is happy to have the extra fares.
He added that the flight attendant seating in the pilot’s cabin is generally a small bench rather than individual seats, so multiple passengers may be crammed into the space.
But he said the total weight of the plane—which could affect landings, especially in windy conditions—would also be dependent on the amount of cargo.
Though maintenance in Cambodia is not of the highest standards, the official said he always felt safe flying in PMT and Royal Phnom Penh Airways planes, though he said Ratanakkiri’s runway can make landings tricky.
A new airport with a paved runway has been in discussion for several years, but the Asian Development Bank-funded project is still in the planning stages.
ADB program officer Nida Ouk said that the funding for the project is approximately $3 million.