One dead as Singapore Airlines Boeing flight hits severe turbulence

By AFP   May 21, 2024 | 03:23 am PT
One dead as Singapore Airlines Boeing flight hits severe turbulence
A Boeing 777-300ER aircraft by Singapore Airlines. Photo by Flickr/Russel Harry Lee
One person was killed and 30 injured Tuesday when a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777 hit severe turbulence on a flight from London and was forced to make an emergency landing in Bangkok.

Emergency vehicles raced onto the tarmac at the Thai capital's main airport with lights flashing and sirens blaring after Singapore-bound flight SQ321 touched down at 3:45 p.m. (0845 GMT).

It is the latest drama involving a Boeing plane, after a fuselage panel blew out of an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX in January as well as two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019.

Singapore Airlines said the flight took off from London's Heathrow airport and "encountered severe turbulence en route."

"We can confirm that there are injuries and one fatality on board the Boeing 777-300ER. There were a total of 211 passengers and 18 crew on board," the airline said in a statement.

The carrier said "18 individuals have been hospitalised. Another 12 are being treated in hospitals," without giving details of the nature and severity of the injuries.

"We deeply apologise for the traumatic experience that our passengers and crew members suffered on this flight. We are providing all necessary assistance during this difficult time," the airline said.

Flight tracking data suggested the plane dropped more than 1,800 meters (6,000 feet) in just five minutes over the Andaman Sea.

The incident came as parts of Thailand were buffeted by thunderstorms as the country's annual rainy season gets under way.

"At 3:35 pm the airport received a distress call from the Singapore Airlines flight saying there were passengers on board injured by turbulence, and requesting an emergency landing," Suvarnabhumi Airport said in a statement.

"The plane landed at the airport and the medical team was sent to treat all the injured."

The airport statement described the dead passenger as a foreigner -- meaning a non-Thai.

Singapore's transport minister Chee Hong Tat said in a Facebook post that he was "deeply saddened" by the incident and offered his condolences to the family of the fatality.

Boeing woes

U.S. aviation giant Boeing has been rocked by a series of problems in recent years and in March announced the departure of CEO Dave Calhoun as it faces intense scrutiny on safety and manufacturing standards.

The change in leadership came in the wake of the near-catastrophic incident in January when a fuselage panel on a Boeing 737 MAX 9 Alaska Airlines jet blew off mid-flight.

Fatal crashes in Indonesia in 2018 and Ethiopia in 2019 -- which killed 346 people in total -- led to a lengthy grounding for the 737 MAX fleet worldwide.

The company has a late May deadline to present a plan required by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, which has capped MAX production until the company shows progress on safety and quality control.

In July, the U.S. Justice Department will make a final determination on whether to criminally prosecute Boeing.

And in September, the company faces a potential strike of 30,000 workers if it is unable to reach a contract with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

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