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Misinformed pilot causes Vietnam plane to land at wrong airport

The foreign pilot of a flight operated by local private airline VietJet Air that landed at the wrong airport last week had not been informed of the new air route, the head of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam said Sunday.

The foreign pilot of a flight operated by local private airline VietJet Air that landed at the wrong airport last week had not been informed of the new air route, the head of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam said Sunday.
The foreign pilot of a flight operated by local private airline VietJet Air that landed at the wrong airport last week had not been informed of the new air route, the head of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam said Sunday.

The Czech captain and Vietnamese crewmembers of VietJet Air (VJA) flight #VJ 8575 have been suspended from duty pending investigation after their plane landed in the coastal city of Cam Ranh instead of the Central Highlands city of Da Lat as expected on June 19.

VJA, now the country’s sole operating private airline, initially informed the media that the pilot had to make an emergency landing at the Cam Ranh airport due to foul weather.

But later it was revealed that there was some misconduct in following flying procedures by both the air traffic coordinators and the VJ 8575 crew, including the pilot, sending the CAAV to form a team to look into the case and suspend the individuals involved.

In an interview with VnExpress newspaper, CAAV chief Lai Xuan Thanh elaborated on what really happened to the Airbus A320 carrying around 200 people that landed at an airport 130 km away from where it should have gone, which he said is an unprecedented case in the history of Vietnamese aviation.

The aircraft was coded VN-A 692, and was scheduled to conduct three flights: HCMC-Hanoi, Hanoi-Cam Ranh, and Cam Ranh-Hanoi, on June 19, Thanh said.

It was expected to make flight #VJ 8575 from Hanoi to Cam Ranh at 5:40 pm, while flight #VJ 8861 bound for Da Lat would depart around the same time.

But as the airplane used for flight #VJ 8861 incurred a technical issue prior to departure, VJA decided to have aircraft VN-A 692 take over the Da Lat service for the former plane to undergo maintenance in Hanoi.

“The aircrew that had been assigned to the flight to Cam Ranh was transferred to work on the flight to Da Lat,” Thanh elaborated.

The critical point of the whole story was that all crew members but the captain were informed that they would fly to Da Lat instead of Cam Ranh, the CAAV head pressed.

The Czech captain still thought that he was expected to fly the aircraft to the coastal city, which he eventually did.

Thanh said the flight attendants skipped a step in their regular procedure as they did not consult the captain before departure.

And the pilot himself was so careless that he signed the flight preparation record without noting the destination airport, he added.

The captain still managed to pass through all contacts with air traffic controllers in Cam Ranh because the VN-A 692 aircraft and its flight number (VJ 8575) had been registered for the Cam Ranh service, Thanh said.

The aviation chief underlined that the airport flight planners are to bear the heaviest responsibility as they did not make sure the captain would be informed of the plan change.

The pilot is also to blame because he departed without carefully reading the flight plan, he added.

No cover-up?

A representative from the airline earlier said initial investigation showed that an incomplete cooperation between the flight coordinators and the aircrew could be linked to the pilot’s mistake.

“We extend our sincere apologies to passengers affected by the flight,” VJA managing director Luu Duc Khanh told VnExpress.

VJA did not want to cover up the issue when it previously told the media that the landing was due to bad weather, Khanh added.

“The very first information our media department received was about the weather conditions, so we only sent them to the press as initial information to ensure a timely report,” he explained.