Pilot says after fatal incident at Malaysia airport: I was not told about vehicle on runway

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A pilot, whose jet ran into a car on the tarmac of Subang Airport in Selangor this week, killing a worker, claimed to have been cleared to land by the air traffic controller and that no notice was issued for maintenance work, as required.

Captain Muhammad Fauwaz Zamzam, who had piloted the Bombardier Challenger 300, said he did not see any other light on the tarmac, except for the airport guiding lights and boundary markers.

He said they decided to proceed to the bay after checking the aircraft instruments and confirming that there was no fire.

Captain Muhammad Fauwaz, who has 7,000 hours of flying experience, claimed to have been surprised when he "heard on the airport radio that the plane had rammed into a car and someone was injured" after he had taxied.

During the 3.15am incident on Monday (March 18), the jet collided with a Malaysian Airport Holdings Bhd (MAHB) vehicle, seriously injuring Mr Mohd Ruzaimi Iskandar Ahmad Razali, 39. The vehicle was used to supervise the painting and electrical repair work on the runway.

Mr Mohd Ruzaimi died on Wednesday.

The case is now being investigated by the police and the Transport Ministry's Air Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB).

Mr Muhammad Fauwaz also alleged that he was given clearance to land some four minutes before he approached the airport.

"I did not see any other light on the tarmac, except for the airport guiding lights, as the plane approached the runway. If there has been work being carried out or any vehicle on the runway, normally there would be beacon lights," he said.

He also claimed that the airport did not issue Notice to Airman (Notam) to indicate that work was being carried out, and that he radioed the control tower twice.

"The first attempt was not responded and on my second call, the tower gave us the clearance to land," he said, adding that he was saddened by the incident.

The private jet, belonging to Berjaya Air, was on a chartered flight from Jaipur, India, with eight passengers on board.

It is also learnt that two air traffic controllers who were on duty that morning had been suspended from work pending the investigation by the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) and AAIB.

A source said AAIB had seized the plane's cockpit voice recorder to determine the conversation between the pilot and the air control tower officers as well as that between the pilot and the co-pilot in the plane prior to landing.

The investigation will take two weeks.

In a statement, Berjaya Group executive chairman Vincent Tan announced a personal donation of RM50,000 (S$16,660) to the widow of the dead man.

"The fault for this incident must lie with the airport authorities. They should have given adequate advance warning that maintenance work was being carried out on the runway or closed the airport altogether.

"No such warning was given and, in my view, the airport authority was negligent," he said, adding that he hoped that the incident would serve as a wake-up call to the airport authorities so that it would not recur.

"As far as I am concerned, Berjaya Air and our pilots are completely not at fault," said Tan Sri Tan.

In a statement, Berjaya Air said the landing was in accordance with an approved flight plan submitted to the Air Traffic Control Centre (ATC) prior to its arrival and that the flight had been notified in advance.

"Berjaya will extend its cooperation to the relevant authorities in the investigation into the case," it said, agreeing with the pilot.

When contacted, an MAHB official said it would cooperate with the authorities in the investigation.