I apologise for the lack of posts lately – on the plus side, both Jason and I had our birthdays throughout the past while, which means we’re one step closer to our goal of a career involving flying, but on the minus side, both the weather and our schedules have been absolutely depressing.
On that note, last Wednesday marked Hong Kong’s latest black rain signal, and as all of you probably know, that’s not great news for airports. It certainly wasn’t great news for Hong Kong Airport, as a China Eastern plane skidded off runway 25R, closing that runway and severely delaying flights arriving and departing Hong Kong Airport.
China Eastern Airlines Airbus A321 Hong Kong Airport
The Airport Authority said flight MU765 from Nanjing had landed and was taxiing on the north runway at around 10.50am when it veered off the tarmac and came to a halt on the grassy side.
“It eventually stopped with its nose wheel and the right-hand main landing gear rested on the grass area,”the Civil Aviation Department said, adding that it was being investigated as a “serious incident”.
No injuries were reported, but two female passengers who complained of feeling unwell upon reaching the passenger terminal building were sent to North Lantau Hospital.
The north runway was forced to close for nearly two hours, delaying take-offs and landings until it was reopened at 12.40pm after the A321 aircraft was towed away.
“During the period of single-runway operation, around 50 arrival and 59 departure flights were disrupted,” a spokesman for the authority said.
The plane skidded off the runway about half an hour before the black rainstorm warning was issued. A passenger said the plane aborted its first landing, circled and then descended again.
“I felt it shake badly as it came in to land,” he said.
Civic Party legislator and pilot Jeremy Tam Man-ho said he had listened to an audio recording of a conversation between an air traffic controller and the pilots during the emergency.
“The plane landed on the eastern end of the north runway, and was supposed to leave the runway through exit A4 at its western end,” Tam said. “But for some unknown reason, the plane did not do so.”
Tam said the plane remained on the runway for so long that the controller had to ask another flight, KL887, to circle around again before landing.
“The air traffic controller then asked MU765 to leave through another exit, A2, but the plane ended up sliding onto the lawn between A4 and A2,” he said.
Tam noted that the plane seemed to have turned 180 degrees, and suggested pilot error or low visibility could have caused the accident.
“It is possible it is related to visibility … It shouldn’t be a problem with the wind, the control system or the controller, whose instructions were quite clear,” he said.
The pilot was recorded telling the controller that the plane had gone “the wrong way” at least five times after it landed. The controller then told approaching planes to “go around because the runway is blocked”, before informing MU765 that “fire services are on the way now to assist you”.
I don’t have much to add, but I’d like to commend airlines and airport authorities for taking this seriously. I’d like to think that it’s a given, but let’s think back to a specific airline that dented a 777 fuselage during takeoff and didn’t really give a crap when they noticed upon landing. For example, I received push notifications from Cathay Pacific all day throughout Wednesday and yesterday, which is really helpful whether you’re flying, or tracking a friend’s flight, etc..
It’s nice to see airlines taking responsibility for weather incidents – while there could have been issues in judgement in yesterday’s mishap, I won’t comment much on it, as it seemed to be handled well and there seemed to be no injuries or casualties of any sort. I can’t imagine how scary it must have been for people on the flight, though.
Here’s to hoping everyone getting in and out of Hong Kong yesterday had a great flight nonetheless and everyone on the China Eastern flight is okay!