R’kiri Crash Has Hoteliers Worried About Image

PMT air is expected to fly to Ratanakkiri province as scheduled today, though hoteliers said that passengers who traveled on the plane that skidded off the prov­­ince’s runway on Monday will be leaving the province by oth­er means.

Sar Sareth, director of Progress Multitrade Co—which sold the tick­ets for the flight but sourced the plane from Royal Phnom Penh Airways—said the firm will con­tinue to fly four times per week to the province.

He blamed the accident on Roy­al Phnom Penh Airways, which provided the crew and aircraft for the flight.

“The crash was a result of the pilot’s failure. It was a completely wrong landing…. If it was my pilot landing there would have been no problem,” Sar Sareth said.

Pich Lun, engineering manager for Royal Phnom Penh Air­ways, said it was unclear what had caused the crash, adding that the answer would only emerge after a proper investigation.

He said his company had taken care of the two people who suffered sprains in the crash and hoped that the airline’s image would not be tarnished.

“We went to investigate up there but we could not make any conclusion. We are waiting to hear from [the Secretariat of Civil Aviation] about the result of the investigation,” Pich Lun said, add­ing that a tractor was used to pull the plane from its crash site on Tuesday and drag it to a different spot at the airport.

Pierre-Yves Clais, owner of Terres Rouges Lodge, said tour­ists on Monday’s flight who are staying at his hotel have altered their travel plans.

“My clients wish to go back to Phnom Penh by car, not by PMT,” he said. “They said the plane was too old.”

He added that eight French guests at the hotel who were on the flight want the airline to pay their taxi fare back to the capital.

Tourism has increased this year in Ratanakkiri, he said, and al­though the crash might dampen his business, transportation problems are nothing new for trips to northeastern Cambodia.

Nay Kim, owner of the Tribal Hotel, worried that if tourists are now afraid to fly, they may skip the province rather than brave a daylong taxi ride over crater-laden dirt roads to Banlung.

“I think the crash will affect tourism in the province, because the tourists usually come here by plane,” she said.

“More than 10 of my clients told me that they might go back to Phnom Penh by car rather than by plane…. Two foreigners and one Khmer left my hotel this morning for Phnom Penh by taxi.”

An official at the Secretariat of Civil Aviation who declined to be named said that although an investigation by the secretariat had not yet placed the blame for the crash, explanations of technical failure or alleged passenger overload seemed unlikely.

Betrand Goy, a French national on the plane, said Monday that there were at least two passengers squeezed into the plane’s cockpit.

The official said that although the Chinese Y7 planes and their Russian-made equivalent, the Antonov 24, both of which fly to the province, may appear a bit rusty, mandatory regular maintenance by the airlines and authorities should keep everything in order.

He added that the planes’ ap­pearances can be deceptive.

“Some aircraft fly outside, in the USA, that are older than this aircraft,” he asserted.

Around the world, “some aircraft they are just painting outside, but the year is so old,” he added.

The official said that although he had heard passengers’ ac­counts of the flight being overbooked—which the airlines deny—a few extra people would not weigh the plane down enough to make it veer off the runway.



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