Singapore Airlines Flight 006
|Date||31 October 2000|
|Summary||Crashed into construction equipment during takeoff on a closed runway due to pilot error|
|Site||Runway 05R, Chiang Kai-Shek International Airport, Taoyuan, Taiwan |
|Aircraft type||Boeing 747-412|
|IATA flight No.||SQ006|
|ICAO flight No.||SIA006|
|Call sign||SINGAPORE 6|
|Flight origin||Singapore Changi Airport, Singapore|
|Stopover||Chiang Kai-shek International Airport (now Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport), Taoyuan, Taiwan|
|Destination||Los Angeles International Airport, Los Angeles, California, United States|
Singapore Airlines Flight 006 (SQ006/SIA006)[a] was a scheduled Singapore Airlines passenger flight from Singapore Changi Airport to Los Angeles International Airport via Chiang Kai-shek International Airport (now Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport) in Taipei, Taiwan. On 31 October 2000, at 23:17 Taipei local time (15:17 UTC), the Boeing 747-412 operating the flight attempted to take off from the wrong runway at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport during a typhoon. The aircraft crashed into construction equipment on the runway, killing 81 of the 179 occupants aboard. Ninety-eight initially survived the impact, but two passengers died later from injuries in a hospital. As of 2021, the accident is the third-deadliest on Taiwanese soil. It was the first fatal accident involving a Boeing 747-400 and the only fatal accident involving the passenger variant. It is also the first and only Singapore Airlines crash to result in fatalities.
Aircraft and crew
The aircraft involved in the accident was a Boeing 747-412, registered as 9V-SPK with manufacturer's serial number 28023, powered by four Pratt & Whitney PW4056 engines. It was the 1099th Boeing 747 built and had been delivered to Singapore Airlines on 21 January 1997. It was one of two Singapore Airlines 747-412s that were painted in the special Tropical MegaTop paint scheme to promote new first and business class items. It had its last maintenance check on 16 September 2000 and had no defects during the inspection and at the time of the accident.
The captain of the flight was Foong Chee Kong (age 41). He was an experienced pilot with a total of 11,235 flight hours, of which 2,017 of them were in Boeing 747-400 aircraft. The first officer, Latiff Cyrano (age 36), had 2,442 total flight hours, including 552 hours on the Boeing 747-400. The third member of the crew was relief pilot Ng Kheng Leng (age 38) with approximately 5,508 total flight hours, including 4,518 hours on the Boeing 747-400.
At 15:00 UTC, 23:00 Taipei local time on 31 October 2000, 9V-SPK left Bay B5 during heavy rain caused by Typhoon Xangsane. At 23:05:57, ground control cleared the aircraft to taxi to runway 05L via taxiway SS WC then NP. At 23:15:22, the aircraft was cleared for takeoff on runway 05L. Many carriers in Southeast and East Asia take off during inclement weather.
After a 6-second hold, at 23:16:36, the crew attempted takeoff on runway 05R—which had been closed for repairs—instead of the assigned runway 05L (which ran parallel to 05R). The captain correctly acknowledged that he needed to take off at 05L, but he turned 215 metres (705 ft) too soon and lined up with 05R. The airport was not equipped with ASDE, a ground radar that allows the air traffic controllers to monitor aircraft movements on the ground.
Because visibility was poor in the heavy rain, the flight crew did not see that construction equipment, including two excavators, two vibrating rollers, one small bulldozer, and one air compressor, had been parked on runway 05R. In addition, the runway contained concrete Jersey barriers and pits. About 41 seconds later, the aircraft collided with the machinery and broke into three major pieces. The fuselage was torn in two, and the engines and landing gear separated. A crane tore the left wing from the aircraft, forcing the jet back onto the ground. The nose struck a scoop loader, with a following large fire, destroying the forward section of the fuselage and the wings. 79 of 159 passengers and 4 of 20 crew members died in the accident. Many of the dead were seated in the middle section of the aircraft; the fuel stored in the wings exploded and incinerated that section. At 23:17:36, the emergency bell sounded and 41 firefighting vehicles, 58 ambulances, nine lighting units, and 436 personnel were dispatched to assist survivors and extinguish the fire. Chemical extinguishing agents rained on the aircraft at about three minutes after the impact. At 23:35, roughly 10 minutes after the impact, the fire was brought under control. At 23:40, non-airport ambulances and emergency vehicles from other agencies congregated at the north gate. At 00:00 Taipei time on 1 November, the fire was mostly extinguished and the front part of the aircraft was destroyed. Authorities established a temporary command centre.
At the time of the crash, 179 passengers and crew, including 3 children and 3 infants, were on the aircraft. Of the 179 occupants, 83 were killed, 39 suffered from serious injuries, and 32 had minor injuries, while 25 were uninjured. Four crew members perished. Eighty-one passengers and crew died on impact immediately after the crash and two passengers died at a hospital.
The passengers mostly consisted of Taiwanese and Americans.
Nationalities of passengers and crew
|Taiwan (Republic of China)||55||26||29||2||0||2||57||26||31|
Among the Singaporeans who perished were the mother of a Singapore Turf Club horse trainer; an assistant professor of the National University of Singapore's Department of Computer Science and his wife; and a Republic of Singapore Air Force pilot on his way to the Air National Guard to attend the Advanced Fighter Weapons Instructor Course. In addition, four of the dead were Motorola employees. One of the Singaporean crew members who died on the crash was the brother of Subhas Anandan, who was the most famous criminal lawyer in Singapore.
Among perished passengers of other nationalities were the president and two vice-presidents of Buena Park, California-based Ameripec Inc. A professor at UC Davis survived the crash with more than 12% of his body burned, as did a vice-president of MP3.com, who survived the crash with injuries not related to burns. William Wang, who later founded Vizio, survived with only carbon monoxide poisoning.
Origin of passengers and crew and types of injuries sustained
The captain, co-pilot, and relief pilot originated from Singapore on another SQ006 flight the day before the accident, rested at a hotel in Taipei, and boarded SQ006 on 31 October. All three flight crew members survived the crash. The pilot and relief pilot sustained no injuries while the co-pilot received minor injuries. Of the seventeen cabin crew members, four died, four received serious injuries, and nine received minor injuries.
Of the passengers, 79 died, 35 received serious injuries, 22 received minor injuries, and 23 were uninjured.
The aircraft had 5 first-class passengers, 28 business-class passengers (9 on lower deck and 19 on upper deck), and 126 economy-class passengers. Of the first class passengers, one received a minor injury and four received no injuries. Of the business-class passengers, fourteen (two on lower deck, twelve on upper deck) died, two (one on lower deck, one on upper deck) received serious injuries, seven (two on lower deck, five on upper deck) received minor injuries, and eight (four on lower deck, four on upper deck) were uninjured. Of the economy class passengers, 65 died, 33 received serious injuries, 14 received minor injuries, and 11 were uninjured. The lower deck passengers who died were seated in rows 22 through 38. Sixty-four of seventy-six passengers in the forward economy section were killed by the explosion of the centre fuel tank, which resulted in intense fire. In the upper deck of the business class section, 12 of 19 passengers and 1 of 2 flight attendants died from smoke inhalation and fire; 10 bodies, originating from the upper deck of business class, were found between the stairwell and the 2L exit on the main deck. All passengers in the aft economy section survived.
Of the passengers on the TPE-LAX leg, 77 flew from Singapore and 82 flew from Taipei. Of the passengers originating from Singapore, 37 died. Of the passengers originating from Taipei, 42 died. Three male passengers identified as infants all died, including two Indians originating from Singapore and one Taiwanese originating from Taipei.
The Department of Forensic Pathology Institute of Foreign Medicine, Ministry of Justice performed seven autopsies. One person died from impact injuries, and six people died from severe burns. Many passengers on the flight sustained burns due to jet fuel splashing onto them.
A 45-year-old Taiwanese passenger bearing burns to more than 86% of his body died of his injuries at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital (Chinese: 長庚紀念醫院; pinyin: Chánggēng Jìniàn Yīyuàn), Linkou, Taipei County (now New Taipei City) on Sunday 5 November 2000. A Singaporean woman bearing burns to 95% of her body, died of her injuries in a Taiwanese hospital on 24 November 2000.
An investigation into the accident was conducted by the Aviation Safety Council (ASC) of the Republic of China (Taiwan). The final report was issued by the ASC on 24 April 2002. In the report section "Findings Related to Probable Causes," which detailed factors that played a major role in the circumstances leading to the accident, it was stated that the flight crew did not review the taxi route, despite having all the relevant charts, and as a result did not know the aircraft had entered the wrong runway. Upon entering the wrong runway, the flight crew had neglected to check the para visual display (PVD) and the primary flight display (PFD), which would have indicated that the aircraft was lined up on the wrong runway. According to the ASC, these errors, coupled with the imminent arrival of the typhoon and the poor weather conditions, caused the flight crew to lose situational awareness and led them to attempt to take off from the wrong runway.
Notification of details
Immediately after the accident occurred, James Boyd, a Singapore Airlines spokesperson in Los Angeles, stated that no fatalities occurred in the crash; the airline statement was later revised to state that fatalities occurred.
The airline initially stated that reports of the aircraft taking the wrong runway were untrue before the fact that the wrong runway was used was proven true.
A counselling centre opened at Los Angeles International Airport to deal with relatives of passengers.
Relatives of victims provided blood samples to identify bodies.
Contesting investigation findings
This section needs additional citations for verification. (June 2009)
The report by ASC was deemed controversial by Singapore's Ministry of Transport, Singapore Airlines and the International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations (IFALPA), among others.
Singaporean officials protested that the report did not present a full account of the incident and was incomplete, as responsibility for the accident appeared to have been placed mainly on the flight crew of SQ006, while other equally valid contributing factors had been played down. The team from Singapore that participated in the investigation felt that the lighting and signage at the airport did not measure up to international standards. Some critical lights were missing or not working. No barriers or markings were put up at the start of the closed runway, which would have alerted the flight crew that they were on the wrong runway. The Singapore team felt that these two factors were given less weight than was proper, as another flight crew had almost made the same mistake of using runway 05R to take off days before the accident.
Singapore Airlines also issued a statement after the release of the ASC report. In their statement, Singapore Airlines reiterated the points brought up by the Singapore investigators and added that air traffic control (ATC) did not follow their own procedure when they gave clearance for SQ006 to take off despite ATC's not being able to see the aircraft. Singapore Airlines also clarified that the para visual display (PVD) was meant to help the flight crew maintain the runway centerline in poor visibility, rather than to identify the runway in use.
The statement by Kay Yong (Chinese: 戎凱; pinyin: Rēng Kǎi), managing director of the Republic of China's Aviation Safety Council, implied that pilot error played a major role in the crash of the Boeing 747-400, which led to the deaths of 83 people. He stated that the airport should have placed markers stating that the runway was closed to takeoffs and landings.
Runway 05R was not blocked off by barriers because part of the strip was used by landing planes to taxi back to the airport terminal. The pilot confirmed twice with the control tower that he was on the correct runway; controllers did not know the plane had actually gone on to the wrong runway because the airport lacked ground radar and the plane was out of sight of the tower at the time of its takeoff attempt.
Actions of flight crew and flight attendants
A survivor of the crash, John Wiggans, stated in a USA Today article that the staff were unable to help the passengers escape from the aircraft because they were frozen by fear or lack of competence in emergency procedures; Wiggans was seated in the upper deck business class area. The Straits Times carried reports of flight attendants saving lives of passengers. One story from the newspaper stated that a female passenger escaped the crash, ran back into the aircraft to attempt to save passengers, and died.
The Australian reported that some flight attendants helped passengers, while some flight attendants fled the aircraft before all passengers were accounted for. Genevieve Jiang of The Electric New Paper stated that the pilots attempted to help the passengers.
The Taiwanese report stated that the relief pilot (Crew Member 3, or CM-3) said in an interview that he was the first to leave the cockpit and the last to leave the aircraft.(Pg. 108/508) A passenger sitting in seat 17A stated that the right upper deck door flight attendant directed him to the main deck via the stairs; the flight attendant later died.(Pg. 108/508)
Upper deck passengers and flight attendants stated that the Crew-In-Charge flight attendant (CIC) went upstairs after the first impact; the Crew-In-Charge flight attendant later died.(Pg. 109/508)
The 3R and 3L flight attendants also died; they were seated in the middle of the aircraft.(Pg. 110/508)
This section needs additional citations for verification. (June 2009)
After the release of the ASC report, Republic of China (ROC) public prosecutors called upon the flight crew of SQ006 to return to the ROC for questioning and the three-member crew complied. Rumours abounded at the time that the pilots might be detained in the ROC and charged with negligence. IFALPA had previously stated that it would advise its members of the difficulties of operating into the ROC if the flight crew of SQ006 were prosecuted. The prosecutors did not press charges and the flight crew were allowed to leave the ROC.
The accident aircraft 9V-SPK was painted in Singapore Airlines special promotion livery, a scheme called "Tropical", at the time of the accident. The special livery was intended to promote Singapore Airlines new first class and business class products. After the accident, a similiar aircraft to 9V-SPK, i.e. 9V-SPL, the only other aircraft painted with the promotional livery, was immediately removed from service and repainted with standard Singapore Airlines livery. Since then, the only special livery that Singapore Airlines applies to some of its aircraft outside its standard livery is the Star Alliance livery.
Singapore Airlines offered immediate financial relief of US$5,000 to each survivor a few days after the incident. Singapore Airlines also offered US$400,000 to family of each of the dead. However, more than 30 survivors and families of the dead rejected the offer and sued Singapore Airlines for higher damages. 40 lawsuits were filed against Singapore Airlines in Singapore while more than 60 passenger lawsuits were filed in the United States. All the lawsuits were settled out of court.
Despite a Taiwanese High Prosecutor's decision to not prosecute the pilots for the first three years after the crash, Singapore Airlines subsequently fired the captain and first officer in 2002.
Repatriation of bodies
By 8 November 2000, several bodies were scheduled to be repatriated. Of the bodies:
- 19, including 14 Americans, 3 Taiwanese, and 2 Indians, were repatriated to the United States
- 13, including 11 Singaporeans, 1 British, and 1 American, were repatriated to Singapore
- 10, including 8 Indians and 2 Americans, were repatriated to India
- 4 were repatriated to Malaysia
- 3 Americans were repatriated to Canada
- 1 was repatriated to Indonesia
- 1 was repatriated to Japan
- 1 was repatriated to the Netherlands
- 1 was repatriated to the United Kingdom
- 1 was repatriated to Vietnam
The bodies of 14 Taiwanese passengers and the others remained in Taipei to be collected by relatives.
Hospitalization and release of survivors
By 2 November 2000, 40 passengers and crew were hospitalised, of whom 11 were later released that night. On 5 November 2000, 34 passengers and crew remained hospitalised. 64 were discharged from the hospitals. A Taiwanese passenger died that day. On 8 November 2000, 24 passengers and crew remained hospitalised: 20 in the Republic of China (Taiwan), 3 in Singapore and 1 in the United States. The Republic of Singapore Air Force deployed a specially configured KC-135R for the medical evacuation of critical Singaporean victims. 73 survivors, 40 who were not hospitalised and 33 who were discharged, had either returned home or continued with their travel.
In popular culture
The film Thread That Binds includes an interview with a surviving flight attendant.
Episode 3 ("Caution to the Wind") of season 12 of the Canadian TV series Mayday (also known as Air Crash Investigation) documented the whole investigation process.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Singapore Airlines Flight 006.|
- Investigation reports
- Aviation Safety Council
- Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
- Singapore Airlines press statements
- Court documents
- Eva Van Schijndel's motion (Archive) – Accesslaw.com
- United States Court Document regarding settlement of SQ006 victims (Archive)
- Cockpit voice recorder data
- Cockpit voice recorder and air traffic control transcript for Singapore Airlines Flight 006 – Aviation Safety Council