LONDON, UK - Air Niugini is bringing in ‘human-factors’ experts to examine safety issues relating to the crash of a 737 aircraft in Chuuk lagoon, Micronesia, last October, killing one passenger and seriously injuring 6 others.
The airline’s managing director Alan Milne, a former Qantas executive, has told Reuters news agency that the pilots involved were not currently flying but remain employed at least until an investigation is complete.
"Was it a criminal act? No,” Mr Milne said. “Was it an intentional act? No.
“Was there gross negligence? That is what we've got to answer.
“That is the bit we are doing at the moment."
The pilots had disregarded 13 aural alerts as the plane came in to land, according to a report from the PNG Accident Investigation Commission released last week.
The accident was caused by pilot error, the report stated, but it did not delve into why the pilots did not abort the landing.
Milne also said that Air Niugini will replace its entire fleet of 25 planes in coming years and is looking at options before launching a tender.
"Everything is on the table at the moment," Milne told Reuters.
In 2016 the airline placed an order for four Boeing 737 MAX jets that had been due to arrive in 2020 and 2021 before the plane was grounded globally last year following deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
An Embraer E195-E2 jet visited Port Moresby last week as part of a global demonstration tour. Milne said it was a potential replacement for the airline's aging Fokker jets.
Air Niugini currently has a ‘complex’ fleet of Fokkers, 737s, 767s and De Havilland Dash-8 turboprops.