Caixin
Oct 18, 2016 05:59 PM

Air China Jet Flies in Wrong Direction after Takeoff

An Air China Southwest passenger jet flew in the wrong direction after taking off from Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport on Sunday, just five days after a near-collision between two China Eastern Airlines planes at the Shanghai airport.

Lhasa-bound Flight CA4401, scheduled to leave the Chengdu airport at 7:15 a.m., was told by air traffic controllers to turn the jet 330 degrees to port (left) after takeoff, but the flight crew misheard the instructions and instead turned the plane in the opposite direction — 330 degrees starboard.

The flight crew had not confirmed the order with controllers before taking off, thepaper.cn reported. Once airborne, the crew of CA4401 promptly realized their mistake and notified air traffic control. The plane was then quickly redirected back to its correct flight path.

Thepaper.cn said that an unnamed staffer from Air China Southwest had confirmed reports of the incident on Monday. It is not known whether CA4401's wrong turn affected any other planes.

Chengdu Shuangliu is China's fourth-busiest airport in terms of annual passenger traffic. The top three spots are held by Beijing Capital International Airport, Shanghai Pudong International Airport and Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport.

The incident in Chengdu occurred while the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) was in the middle of investigating another recent close shave at a major Chinese airport.

On Oct. 11, a China Eastern Airbus A320 nearly collided with an Airbus A330, also from China Eastern, when their paths crossed on Runway 36L at Shanghai Hongqiao Airport. The A320's pilots immediately performed an emergency takeoff, averting disaster. The two jets were less than 20 meters apart when the A320 passed over the A330.

A preliminary investigation by CAAC showed that the Shanghai scare was caused by air traffic controllers allowing two different flights to use the runway at the same time.

Civil aviation officials are currently deliberating what action to take against the air traffic controllers involved in the Shanghai incident pending investigations, Xinhua reported.

Neither Shuangliu Airport nor Air China have officially commented on Sunday's incident.

Contact editor Calum Gordon (calum@caixin.com)

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