A Lao Airlines pilot was told to change course shortly before his turboprop plane slammed into the murky Mekong River in southern Laos, killing all 49 people on board, including five Thai nationals.
The Phnom Penh Post reported yesterday that the control tower at the Pakse airport had issued the instruction to Cambodian-born pilot Young San, 56, as the plane was on a landing approach in extreme weather.
"During strong winds, the air controller told [Young San] to change course," said the Cambodian State Secretariat of Civil Aviation's safety and security director, Mak Sam Ol, who has been briefed on the cause of the crash by Laotian authorities.
"He followed instructions but the plane faced strong winds and it couldn't get through," Mak Sam Ol told The Phnom Penh Post. Young San, who had more than 30 years' flying experience, had worked for the airline for almost three years.
"He had a contract with Laos' aviation [authority] for three years and had been there almost all that time," Mak Sam Ol said.
He was a former pilot with Cambodia's defunct state carrier Royal Air Cambodge after having trained in Russia and later France, the Post said. Laotian officials and airline engineers are investigating the cause of the crash of the French-made ATR-72 twin-propeller aircraft that left deep skid marks before careering into the river on Wednesday and disappearing.