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Vietnam Airlines says cross-Indochina route is 85km and 5 minutes shorter

A simulated flight between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City that crossed the airspace of Laos and Cambodia was shorter in distance and time and used less fuel compared to the current route, Vietnam Airlines announced Thursday.

A view of the cockpit inside a Boeing 747 set to be dismantled in the recycling yard of Air Salvage International (ASI) in Kemble, central England November 27, 2013.
A view of the cockpit inside a Boeing 747 set to be dismantled in the recycling yard of Air Salvage International (ASI) in Kemble, central England November 27, 2013.

However, the positive results were achieved when the flight simulation was carried out under the “most ideal conditions,” Lai Xuan Thanh, head of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV), noted.

Vietnam Airlines tested flying an Airbus A321 on the proposed straight flight path, which is called ‘the golden air route,’ on a flight simulator system on Wednesday.

The simulation found that the proposed route is 85km shorter than the current one, and helped save five minutes of flying time, as well as 190kg of fuel, according to the national flag carrier.

It took the simulated flight 103 minutes to complete the 1,191km path from the Vietnamese capital city to the southern hub through Lao and Cambodian airspace, while consuming 4,140kg of fuel.

But this only happened when the plane was allowed to use the current no-fly zones and restricted airspace, according to Vietnam Airlines.

The simulated flight was carried out under the assumption that the airplane would be to cross prohibited airspace in Hanoi and over the military zones at Tho Xuan and Bien Hoa airports, as well as several restrictions in Lao and Cambodian airspace.

“In reality, it requires discussion and negotiation on many issues between the aviation watchdogs of the three countries to have such ideal conditions for actual flights,” Thanh, the CAAV chief, noted.

Low-cost carrier VietJet Air finished simulating the air route on Tuesday, but a company spokesperson said results from the Airbus A320 simulator showed that it cost the plane an additional one ton of fuel and cut the flying time by only one minute compared to the current path.

The CAAV said it will conduct its own flight simulation to verify the results of Vietnam Airlines and VietJet Air.

The ‘golden air route’ has remained a controversial topic since it was first proposed by a retired pilot in Ho Chi Minh City in 2009, and an aviation expert in 2012.

While the idea was greeted with waves of objections from industry insiders and experts, it received strong support from the Vietnamese transport ministry and the CAAV, which said the routes had previously been discussed among the Indochinese countries back in the 1980s.

Vietnamese airlines currently fly between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City on a ‘roundabout’ route that spans a sea area between the capital and Da Nang in the central region, and crosses over the mainland between Da Nang and the southern city.

Map of the straight air route between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City . Source: CAAV