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  • Oct 18, 2014
  • Updated: 8:29am
NewsHong Kong

Anger after fire alarm causes Cathay flight to be aborted

Fire alarm forces flight to be aborted and passenger says the incident confirms his fears about ancient Boeing 777s used on regional routes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 May, 2013, 6:40am

A Cathay Pacific plane with more than 200 passengers on board was forced to make an emergency landing in Bangkok after a fire alarm in its cargo hold went off minutes after it took off for Hong Kong.

Fire engines and emergency vehicles raced out to the Boeing 777-300, which was ordered to taxi to a remote part of the airfield after making a steep turn to touch back down in Bangkok just 29 minutes after it left.

Shaken passengers were kept on board for 90 minutes after Wednesday morning's drama as firemen checked the plane before they were taken back to the airport and made to wait for hours before being put on alternative flights.

A regular flier sitting in the front on flight CX700, which had 206 passengers, recounted the drama yesterday and said the incident confirmed his concerns about the older Boeing 777 planes used on regional routes.

The passenger, who asked not to be named, said: "We were only a few minutes into the flight when the pilot came onto the PA and said: 'We have a problem. We are going to have to return to Bangkok'.

"But then, in a somewhat terse voice, he said, 'All attendants to emergency posts'. As soon as he said that, everyone tensed up and I thought: 'This isn't good'.

"We proceeded to do a very sharp turn and then fly in a fairly direct line back to Bangkok airport. The landing was absolutely fine, but we landed surrounded by fire engines and ambulances.

"The captain said: 'We are safely on the ground. We have had an indication of a fire on board so we have been taken to a remote part of the airport and the fire services are doing an inspection of the plane'.

"There were no flames pouring out of the plane and it's entirely possible that it was something as simple as a defective light on a panel. As a passenger it's impossible to know. What I find frustrating is that since this happened, we have had no explanation, no e-mail, no phone call and no apology - nothing."

The passenger - a businessman who holds a Cathay Pacific Diamond Card reserved for the most frequent fliers - said: "I've told my secretary not to book me on the 777s. I get her to look at what planes they have on each flight and I normally won't fly if it's a 777.

"I've been worried about this for some time. I have felt these things are beyond serviceable. They are 20-plus years old and the airline has said in the past it would phase them out."

He added: "I have nothing but praise for the pilot and the crew. The pilot came across as very calm. He did the world's biggest U-turn but he did it with great aplomb.

"It's not the people that are the problem. It's the mechanical side of it. It's the fact that Cathay is maintaining a fleet that is inconsistent. You fly a brand new [Airbus] 330 and then a 20-year-old 777 on the same route one week after the next. That can't be maintainable."

In a written statement, a Cathay spokeswoman said: "Cathay Pacific confirms that flight CX700 from Bangkok to Hong Kong made a precautionary return to Bangkok after a cargo compartment fire warning light came on.

"The aircraft landed safely and responding agencies found no signs of smoke or fire in the compartment. Passengers have been accommodated on other Cathay Pacific flights or those of other airlines.

"Cathay Pacific's flight CX700 was a continuation of its flight from Colombo to Bangkok. The airline apologises for the inconvenience caused to passengers on these flights."

The spokeswoman said that the aircraft was returned to service on Friday and the cause of the incident was still being investigated.

"Safety is our top priority at all times and all our aircraft are safe," she said.


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This article is now closed to comments

Those comments about A330 and 777 are loads of bullcrap . End of story
Absolutely agree with egm and iianson. This is not a news story, simply one person's opinion dressed up as fact: 'the incident confirms his fears about ancient Boeing 777s used on regional routes'. Quick, let's ground all the 777s because Mr Diamond's seat is a little worn! 'Beyond serviceable'? Come on. While complaining is perfectly acceptable, tarting up a whinge as news is completely unacceptable and the SCMP needs to do better.
where is cathay's A380 ? even thai airways now flying A380 since one years. cathay is one of the failed airline now.often have strike from different departments of cx.very poor service and high ticket prices.vvvvv rude/non co-operative/racist ground and inflight staff.cx should learn from other airlines in region how they are moving ahead and you cx going fail and fail. still flying a list of 747.toally non faourite for passenger flights. EK is a big and easy example for you .no strike.fullt trained staff.big seats.1600+ channels for inflight entertainment.over 30 A380 in operation. and you cathay.its all becuase of cathay's corrupt higher management.
Is this a story worth reporting?
If I was on the plane, I'd be upset that we were not let out of a potentially burning plane for 90 minutes. They evacuate a high rise on a false alarm, right? I defend the 777's records along with the mass of comments here. I'd fly in a 777 over an Airbus product any day because the 777 was designed and built by Boeing before Boeing's decline by being managed by MBA's instead of technology guys. CEO left and saved Ford, which was on the verge of bankruptcy. Airbus, they made fly-by-wire planes which allowed a pilot to rip the tail off (over-stress) by human inputs (AA-587). The new generation of planes by both Boeing and Airbus are full of problems, the wing cracks in the A380 is a good sign of newbie errors which should never have gotten past the idea stage (thermal expansion rates between materials of 5:1 ratio). The battery fires on the B787 is only the tip of the iceberg. Watch as B787s explode after several lightning strikes after the copper mesh is consumed. Look up "LSP B787" and find the pdf where the FAA gave exceptions to the B787 for insufficient resistance to lightning strikes. I have that pdf.
Diamond Boy seems a little clueless. Aircraft maintenance programs like CX have a variety of planes, engines and systems, which makes some sense as one does not want to put all eggs in one basket. 777s are used all around the world for regional and long haul and have a very good safety record. CX is a professional airline that has mechanics that apparently know what they are doing. I hear him that on regional flights the 777s are a bit long in the tooth as to the interior but that has nothing to do with the engines or avionics. That said sensors eventually wear out as to all manner of things. It may have been a bit scary and an inconvenience but it is complex machine that it turned out had no problem but one sensor.
Big Sheep
More quality reporting from the SCMP.
The passenger's comments about the 777-300 bear little relation to the facts. Cathay received its first brand-new 777 in 1998, that's 15 years, not "20-plus". And the 777 has an absolutely fantastic safety record - over 1100 in service and no fatality since introduction in 1995. The 777 is currently in production. There is nothing "ancient" about 15 years service for an aircraft built to the proven excellent quality standards of the 777.
So the question is, why does the Post build a non-story entirely out of one passenger's emotional and non-fact-based comments without a single word of balance? Why is the word "ancient" used in the headline? What sort of journalism is the Post delivering?
A smoke alarm is indeed quite serious.
But the bulk of the article is rubbish and just based on a rant by some "Diamond Card" member; as if being a Diamond Card member gives one more fact-based knowledge!
Boeing 777-300 first entered service for Cathay Pacific in 1998, which makes it much less than the "20-plus" years this Diamond Card member claims.
Where is the "anger" of the other 205 passengers????
Totally agree
A smoke warning is very serious most likely due to something unknown in the cargo.
Cathay has very good proven record of aircraft maintenance. They totally refurbished
the Tristars purchased from collapsed Eastern Airlines, and flew them reliably for many
years. I 've flown over 1.5 million miles with Cathay over the last 30 years, and only
had one delay due to a mechanical problem, which was quickly resloved
The 777 didn't achieve FAA certification until April 1995 - so how can this aircraft be 20 years old?


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