MIAMI — An Air Niugini Boeing 737-800 crashed in Chuuk after it landed short of the runway at Chuuk International Airport (TKK) in
Weno is the main island of the Province of Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia, located north of Australia and east of the Philippines.
The carrier’s flight PX73 was scheduled to depart at 09:55 local time from the Federated States of Micronesian airport of Chuuk with destination Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea.
The Boeing 737-800, carrying 47 passengers, reportedly landed short of the runway and ended up floating in the lagoon, later sinking.
“I thought we landed hard,” said passenger Billy Janes to a missionary in Chuuk, Matthew Colson.
“Until I looked over and saw a hole in the side of the plane and water was coming in. And I thought, well, this is not the way it’s supposed to happen.”
Janes added that he was “really impressed with the locals who immediately started coming out in boats.”
“One would think that they might be afraid to approach a plane that’s just crashed,” he said.
Several photos and videos show many local residents in boats assisting in the rescue of passengers and crew.
Local news report that Coast Guard boats later arrived and surrounded the sinking airplane.
The U.S. Navy was also present, offering help with an inflatable boat to carry people shore before the plane sank into the shallow lake, which has a depth of about 100 feet of water.
A Facebook user named Bill Davis witnessed the accident. “It landed in the water about 160 yards offshore,” he said.
“The plane floated long enough for the 36 passengers and 11 crew members to escape and be rescued by locals in their boats,” he said.
Unfortunately, FlightRadar24 coverage ends well before the aircraft’s attempted landing in Weno.
Air Niugini Calls For Bad Weather
Air Niugini issued a public statement saying that the 35 passengers and 12 crew members aboard the Boeing 737 “were all able to safely evacuate.”
However, in a second statement released on October 1, the airline confirmed that the body of a male passenger was discovered by divers as they conducted further explorations.
“This is the unaccounted passenger from the aircraft,” said the airline. ” Our outreach team is in touch with the man’s family and we are making arrangements to repatriate his body.”
The airline added that weather was poor at the time, with heavy rain and reduced visibility, which inevitably begs the question of why the pilots continued with the approach and didn’t divert to an alternate.
Air Niugini stated that the circumstances surrounding the accident “are now a matter for relevant authorities as they begin their task of investigating the events that led to the incident.”
At the time of the accident, Boeing said that it was “glad to hear the initial reports that all onboard Air Niugini Flight 73 evacuated safely. Boeing is prepared to provide technical assistance under the direction of investigating government authorities.”
The carrier then specified that the incident occurred at 10:10 am FSM local time. “Air Niugini has been informed that the weather was very poor with heavy rain and reduced visibility at the time of the incident.”
“Air Niugini is now positioning assistance to Chuuk for our passengers and crew. We are also in touch with the embassies, passenger representatives, stakeholders and families of the crew,” concluded the initial public statement.
Chuuk International Airport
Chuuk International Airport originated as a Japanese airfield built between November and December 1942 in the middle of Chuuk Lagoon.
Currently, the airport receives regular commercial flights from Guam and Honolulu (via Pohnpei). O
The airport’s only runway (06/24) measures 6.006 x 150 ft, and its surrounded by a shallow-water lagoon.
The only instrument approaches available for this airport are two GPS/RNAV and NDB procedures.
Air Niugini, the national airline of Papua New Guinea, is based in Port Moresby Jacksons International.
The airline runs a fleet of 25 aircraft, of which two are Boeing 737-800s.
The aircraft that was involved in today’s incident is PX-PXE, originally delivered to Air India Express in 2005.
Powered by two CFM56-7B2 engines, the 14-year-old aircraft continued its career in India with Jet Airways and was ultimately transferred to Air Niugini in 2013.
Since then, the plane was re-configured with 20 seats in Business Class and 138 in Economy Class.