Thailand's Aviation Cover-Up And Bonnie Rind
Bonne Rind is a fighter and she is appalled at a system which allows the bosses of an airline, which has flagrantly
disregarded the safety of its passengers, to get off scot free.
Bonnie no doubt remains unphased any more by the lack of any campaigning action by the Thai press.
As she says: ‘Here is what I have very painfully learned: If a country doesn’t have a free press then don’t rely on its infrastructure; these include airlines, trains, security, police or hospitals’.
And yes she is talking about Thailand this bastion of freedom between Cambodia, Burma and Laos. Much of the evidence she gathered was presented to the inquest in Britain this week.
Airline pilots confided in her and told her what was going wrong.
The story has made the news worldwide…well almost.
Lincoln has long associated with Robin Hood, Sir Robin of Loxley, a good guy who having been stripped of his riches began a career of robbing the rich and giving to the poor.
Coroner’s Court Lincoln Centre
So it’s very ironic that was being discussed at the local Coronor’s court is air crash in September 2007 in which 90 people died.
The poor people do not get much of a look in in this story I’m afraid. The Thais who died in this crash will be struggling to get realistic compensation payments and some 26 have come to local arrangemtns.believed to be in the region of US$50,000 but with secrecy clauses attached.
The foreigners had try to sue in the United States it seems because the company has assets there and one of the bosses also has US citizenship. But the out of court settlements, though in the main twice as much as the local ones, while much higher than those awarded locally have been heavily gouged by lawyers.
So in this case the ‘Sheriff of Rottingham’ still wins in the end. Sticks and stones won’t break his bones. Or as says Bonnie: ‘He is as untouchable as you can get’.
At the conclusion of the inquest Coroner Stuart Fisher panned One-Two-Go and parent company Orient Thai.
There was pilot error, he said but this had to be understood in the context of a corporate culture which encouraged the crew to work well beyond their safe flying hours and failed to provide them with adequate training.
‘It is my understanding, given the evidence that I’ve heard, that the airline company One-Two-Go exhibited a flagrant disregard for passenger safety.’
‘The primary failure, as far as I’m concerned, relates to the corporate culture which prevailed both prior to and following the air crash.
‘It seems to me that all airlines should place passenger safety as a matter of the highest priority.
‘Clearly, this was not the case with One-Two-Go airlines.’
It was a shame, he said, that he did not have the power to force the chief executives of the firms to appear at the hearing.
This was a sorry tale of overworked under paid pilots, falsified flying hours to cover the fact that they were working over the legal limits, falsified safety checks, and conspiracy to pervert the course of an enquiry.
These factors were so great that the Coroner refused to record a verdict of accidental death but insisted his full comments be heard.
Nothing will bring back this victim who died in hospital: Pic Andrew Chant
The evidence highlights systemic failures and a highly deficient safety culture at the time at both airlines.
‘These factors are not consistent with a verdict of accidental death,’ he said.
Speaking after the hearing, solicitor James Healy-Pratt – who represented a number of the families said: ‘It was a preventable accident and, in many ways, it was an accident waiting to happen so 90 people lost their lives needlessly.
‘The families wanted the facts to come out. The facts have come out in this inquest in terms of the organisational
deficiencies, the lack of any safety culture within the airline and how that affected the flying abilities of the pilots.’
These comments are damning. But what will happen to those responsible? Not a lot it seems. Thailand is still in the world of feudal barons at which the masses are expendable.
So let’s think for a minute about ALL those who died in the Phuket air crash and the foreign and Thai families and let’s hope no future Thai government will allow something like ‘Air Katanga’ to fly again and that they are monitoring the planes still flying.
And then we could perhaps thank Bonnie Rind whose fearless internet campaign has kept this in the public eye, er elsewhere at least.
Bonnie, a software engineer from Massachusetts, who drives a Mini Cooper S, and is also a qualified private pilot was spurred on by the senseless death of her brother Stefan Woronoff.
‘My brother was 42 years old when he was killed. He had a long life compared to those kids, but of course One Two Go and its bosses stole 1/2 of his life. Stefan was more full of life, lived life more fully than anyone I’ve ever known. There are goods and bads to someone like that. Certainly it could be hard to be his kid sister. But how do I live without it and how dare they steal that from him and from me!? I feel so bad for Stefan. I feel so bad for me. This is very difficult for me to understand.
‘My brother was brilliant. I am an engineer and have some background in aviation (owning a plane & flight training), yet Stefan knew more about commerical flight than I did. That also bugs the hell out of me. He certainly knew they were f*cking up, probably before they did, certainly during the final 4 minutes of flight. I agree this is a cover-up, but not necessarily any bigger or different than any other Thai cover-up, except that it involves commercial aviation which is the backbone of every significant economy.
‘In OG269, young, healthy people ‘ powerless Thais and farang, ie tourists ‘ died horribly due to corruption and wonton and willful disregard for human life. The Thais cover it up quickly, so the public forgets about it and tourism continues. That was the plan. Hopefully, we sort of foiled that plan.
‘Now with regard to any actual investigation or change in aviation in Thailand. As far as I can tell, from the point of the view of the Thais it is unacceptable for any Thai person to be at fault. By definition this failure to critically assess a situation means they can’t have improved.
‘For example, the Thais will never admit the flying pilot was Montri, a Thai. Not to excuse Arief (the Captain) but Montri was flying the plane. He also was vastly beyond hours and also, due to inadequate training, had very little skill and apparently not even enough to decide not to land the aircraft in a situation any semi-skilled pilot would avoid.
‘This inability to fault a Thai also means the boss can’t be held accountable for running a vastly illegal and unsafe airline. Similarly, the Thai Civil Aviation Authority (DCA) can’t be faulted for their the bribes they take at senior and junior positions.
‘Regarding the company owner my understanding is that he was actually running CIA (Cambodia International Airlines) into Cambodia just after the Khumer Rouge. That became a business of defying the ban on business with Cambodia as he flew goods in and out of Cambodia for Thailand, significantly enriching himself and Thailand. He is as untouchable as a person can be in Thailand.
‘ I have seen no one report on a remotely full truth in Thailand. The senior personnel at the Thai DCA cannot fine or revoke a license etc without consent from very powerful people in Thailand.
‘But furthermore, the international systems have failed travelers as well. ICAO who is supposed to support improved aviation standards internationally has failed egregiously.
‘When I spoke with the ICAO representative stationed in Bangkok about the corruption at Orient Thai & DCA including that I had documents showing fraudulent check-rides AFTER the crash ‘ documents that were leaked to me by an ICAO representative – he told me that ICAOs job is not to oversee safety, not to work with the airlines, not to improve the situation in the country.
He said ALL he does and all he would do with any information I have is forward it on.
‘That’s it. And he laughed through the entire phone call. I had previous spoken with ICAO in Canada and they suggested I call Bangkok. Just amazing.
‘The FAA also has a part in overseeing international crashes and they too have failed to take any action. The FAA had told Thai DCA they were ‘severely deficient’ in July ’07 before the crash, but didn’t tell the US public.
‘Then they continued to do nothing until receiving much pressure from me and all the evidence I posted. It is my belief that the temporary grounding of One Two Go was due to a deal worked out between Udom, the DCA and the FAA as a sort of punishment.
‘I was told by a witness that Udom was a part of the meeting. Orient Thai was originally part of the grounding and Udom managed to negotiate it
‘Lastly the insurance companies and their Lloyyd’s backers know of the dangers ‘ if for no other reason than because I showed them ‘ and they continue to ensure Orient Thai.
‘The lead insurer of OT at the time of the crash was a company called Global Aero. I spoke with the Chief Legal officer at length. He says he is proud to stand behind the fact that they meet their legal agreements of paying (minimal sums) for the dead and injured.
‘At the time, Warren Buffet was a major investor in the global aero pool. Very profitable business insuring aviation oversees as the costs of a crash are so low and all the company does is provide paperwork and a promise to pay in exchange for millions in annual fees.’