Mon, Dec 15, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Pilots fired after take-off blunder

DPA , HONG KONG

Two pilots with a Hong Kong airline have been sacked for trying to take off in a plane carrying 122 passengers from a taxiway rather than a runway, the airline said yesterday.

Hong Kong Airlines captain Indra Santrianto and his Argentinian First Officer Diego Martin Chiadria were dismissed over the incident Boeing 737 at Hong Kong International Airport on Sept. 13.

An air traffic controller raised the alarm when he saw the plane bound for South Korea speeding along the taxiway and alerted the cockpit crew in time for them to abort take-off.

Santrianto, an Indonesian, told his company he was merely travelling at speed on a taxiway on his way to the north runway and that air traffic controllers had mistaken his approach for an attempted take-off.

However, an investigation by Hong Kong’s Civil Aviation Department concluded the pilot was attempting a take-off and said the incident was caused by “temporary loss of situation awareness” on the part of the flight crew.

Taxiways at Hong Kong International Airport run the length of the runways but are narrower, have distinctive green lighting and, unlike runways, no center lighting.

A report by the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) recommends improving the airline’s standard operating procedures and action to “enhance flight crew situation awareness and alertness.”

The report also recommends improvements to taxiway lighting and ground marking systems at the airport.

Hong Kong Airlines spokesman Alex Au confirmed that the two pilots had been dismissed.

“It is a fair report,” he said. “We have already released the two pilots, and we are implementing the recommendations that the CAD made regarding procedures.”

Hong Kong Airlines, which with sister airline Hong Kong Express flies to 30 cities across Asia, fired a number of senior expatriate pilots early this year.

“I would urge the Civil Aviation Department to take a long, hard look at what is going on at Hong Kong Airlines,” said John Findlay, general secretary of the Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association.

“The numbers of highly qualified pilots who have been terminated for no apparently justifiable reason is alarming. Public confidence in Hong Kong Airlines has to be assured,” he said.

However, Au said claims that the September incident indicated general poor standards at Hong Kong airlines were “grossly unfair and inappropriate.”

“It is not just the pilots but the environment and the circumstances which led to the incident,” he said.

There have been two previous incidents involving planes attempting to take off from taxiways rather than runways at Hong Kong’s 11-year-old international airport.

Action was taken by the Hong Kong Airport Authority to improve lighting and markings on the airport apron following an incident last year.

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