Air incident based on lies, report says

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 August, 2011, 12:00am


Flight crews on both aircraft involved in a controversial mid-air emergency over a Shanghai airport this month lied to air-traffic controllers, air-safety watchdogs said.

Pilots on flights operated by Qatar Airways and Juneyao Airlines both exaggerated fuel shortages in order to be given landing priority in the August 13 incident, China Central Television reported yesterday.

The Civil Aviation Administration has been investigating allegations that the pilot of Juneyao flight HO1112 refused to follow controllers' instructions to give way to a Qatar flight from Doha that had issued a Mayday call due to lack of fuel.

The pilots on Qatar flight QR888 reportedly requested an emergency landing as they had just five minutes' worth of fuel remaining, but the flight crew on the Juneyao aircraft - which was already on final approach to Hongqiao International Airport - ignored orders to give way, saying they were also running short of fuel.

The Qatar flight was forced to delay landing, but made it onto the runway without incident.

However, CCTV reported yesterday that the aviation administration found that both aircraft had considerably more fuel remaining than the pilots had told air-traffic controllers.

The Qatar aircraft, a Boeing 777-300ER, still had around five tonnes of aviation fuel after landing, sufficient for approximately half an hour's flying time, while the smaller Juneyao plane had between two and three tonnes, enough to keep it in the air for another hour, the report said.

The aviation administration's eastern branch could not be reached for comment yesterday, and no update had been posted on the administration's website since an initial statement released on Wednesday.

Juneyao said the flight crew involved had been suspended pending the outcome of the administration's investigation, but also stated that 'parts of online discussions' of the incident had a 'comparatively large discrepancy' from the facts.

Qatar, in a statement released late on Thursday night, said its aircraft had been diverted from Pudong International Airport, also in Shanghai, due to unforeseen thunderstorms.

'In the captain's judgment, in order not to compromise flight safety en route to Hongqiao airport, he declared an emergency.'

The release made no mention of the amount of fuel the plane was carrying at the time, but said that media reports of the incident 'contain information which is ambiguous and misleading'.

A spokesman for the airline declined to elaborate.

'There are many reports and rumours on the internet, and much of the information is not accurate,' he said. 'The incident is currently under investigation and we are co-operating with the authorities.'

Professor Sun Ruishan, director of the Research Institute of Civil Aviation Safety in Tianjin , said that although it was difficult to comment without knowing the full details of the case, it would be highly irregular for pilots to give inaccurate information to air-traffic controllers.

'In the interests of safety, it is absolutely necessary for air-traffic controllers to be able to trust what they are being told by pilots,' Sun said. 'There can be no room in the industry for pilots to be giving the wrong information so they can jump the queue. That would be a very immoral thing to do.'