KUCHING: Hornbill Skyways Sdn Bhd has denied allegations it declined to join in the operation to search for the passengers of the ill-fated privately-owned Eurocopter EC120 which crashed near Sebuyau on Friday.
Its director of operations Captain Mohd Hassan Suman said in fact two of its aircraft were diverted to the area where the helicopter had crashed to help locate the victims and the wreckage.
“We managed to divert two of our aircraft operating within the vicinity at that time to assist despite our limited capability. One of the aircraft was ferrying Tan Sri William Mawan who was on the way to Sibu and a Survey aircraft for the Forest Department,” he said in a statement yesterday.
It was issued in response to media reports which quoted Sebiro Holdings owner Dato Sng Chee Hua as saying that he was disappointed with Hornbill Skyways for declining his request to join the search-and-rescue mission.
The Sebiro-owned Eurocopter EC120, piloted by German Rico Steger, was ferrying three passengers, including two Sebiro employees, to a project site in Nanga Merit, Kapit Division, from Kucing when the mishap occurred.
Mohd Hassan said it was unfortunate that Hornbill Skyways was misquoted as not being able to assist in the search exercise. He explained the situation was also due to unavailability of aircraft due to prior assignments and maintenance when Sng came to its office on Friday.
On a related matter, he said in any emergency situation, the search and rescue (SAR) coordination committee would consist of departments of various discipline.
“Any such search and rescue are coordinated among the agencies which might involve air, ground and water undertakings. They comprised trained personnel for such missions.”
He explained that emergency situations involving aircrafts were categorised into various phases namely INCERFA (Uncertainty Phase), ALERFA (Alert Phase) and DETRESFA (Distress Phase).
The Distress Phase is pronounced upon confirmation that an aircraft is in distress or known to have crashed, and the SAR is to be activated. This can only be monitored by the controlling Authority i.e. the ATC (Air Traffic Control) if a proper radio communication is maintained, he said.
“This is amongst the reason why all Malaysian registered aircraft are required to be fitted with both VHF and HF radio for operations in Sarawak.
“It was also learnt that the Controlling Authority was not aware of the unfortunate aircraft’s whereabouts, and the stage of emergency was declared DETRESFA when the surviving pilot reported his condition.”