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CAAP probes co-pilot’s death

By: Victor Anthony V. Silva - | December 19,2016 - 10:15 PM

The reported death of a co-pilot of a Cebu-bound Cebu Pacific flight from Singapore last Saturday prompted an investigation from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) and an appeal from a co-pilot’s friend to the airline to look closely into their employees’ welfare.

CAAP said yesterday that they were investigating the reported death of First Officer Margarito Auza Austria Jr. last Saturday.

Citing initial reports, CAAP said in a statement that Cebu Pacific flight 5J548 landed at the Mactan Cebu International Airport at 9 a.m. after Austria “became incapacitated due to the sudden onset of a medical condition.”

CAAP said Austria was immediately brought to the Mactan Doctors Hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival.

CAAP said Aircraft Accident Investigation and Inquiry Board (AAIIB) investigators were looking into the cause of death.

CAAP said AAIIB investigators Harry Paradero and Rodrick Briones were dispatched to Cebu to collect information regarding the incident.

Voice recorder

CAAP spokesperson Eric Apolonio, in an ABS-CBN news report, also said that CAAP investigators will also recover the flight cockpit voice recorder to help in their investigation.

According to CAAP records, Austria submitted a clean bill of health based on the certification of airline medical unit submitted to the CAAP licensing office.

“All flight crew are required to submit an annual medical certificate before they can renew their licenses to fly any aircraft,” the news report read.
Apolonio said that with the death of Austria, there might be a need for CAAP to review the medical program for airlines.

He said they will also look into Austria’s food intake to determine the cause of his death.

Cebu Pacific is working closely with authorities, CAAP added.


Meanwhile, one of the friends of the late First Officer Austria appealed to the airline to look more closely into the welfare of their employees.

“They must always look after the health of their pilots based on FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) regulations. People first before profit. An overhaul or a more friendly process of scheduling pilots’ flights must be made,” the friend, who requested anonymity, told Cebu Daily News in an online interview.

Cebu Pacific

But according to Cebu Pacific, Flight 5J548 Singapore-Cebu arrived at the MCIA at 8:08 a.m. on Saturday after a four-hour trip.

The 45-year-old Austria was reportedly rushed by airport and airline personnel to the Mactan Doctors Hospital following routine landing and passenger disembarkation, but was declared dead on arrival, Cebu Pacific said in a statement.

Austria is survived by his wife, Queenie, two daughters, and a son.
Cebu Pacific, however, could not give details on the circumstances that led to Austria’s death.

The airline assured that on-site representatives are assisting the family and that their “thoughts and prayers go out to (the bereaved).”

CDN’s source, in a Facebook post on Saturday evening, announced that Austria had died due to a heart attack.

He said he got this information from the family.

In an interview, he said that this might have been triggered by stress and fatigue.

“Monitoring of the stress and fatigue levels of pilots is important. If problems are noted, correct it. The death of Austria should be an eye opener,” the source said.

The airline did not give further comment.

Austria and CDN’s source are both former aviation cadets of the Philippine Air Force Aviation Cadet Alumni Association (PAF-ACES) Class of 1995.

The late pilot was from San Rogue, Talibon, Bohol and was a nursing graduate at the University of San Carlos in Cebu City.

CDN’s source said that after graduating from the PAF Flying School, Austria was assigned to the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing and became a seasoned tactical pilot of the UH-1H Huey combat utility helicopter.

“He had seen much action in numerous counter-insurgency and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Operations and was highly decorated for his deeds and accomplishments,” he said in his post.

After serving the Air Force for about 20 years, Austria separated from the service and flew with Cebu Pacific.

Cebu Pacific said Austria had been working with them for around four years before his death.

Austria’s remains will stay at St. Peter’s Funeral Home until Dec. 21, at the Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base from Dec. 22 to 24, and will be buried in Bohol on Dec. 27.

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TAGS: Airplane, CAAP, Cebu, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, employee, flight, Philippines, welfare

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