An Air China flight departing Hong Kong International Airport narrowly avoided a collision with the mountain on Lantau Island where the great Buddha statue is located.
Hong Kong departure control instructed the flight to ‘immediately climb to 5,000 feet’ in order to prevent the worst from happening.
The near collision prompted the air traffic controller to inform the Air China pilot that it would be required to make a report about the incident after which the pilot apologized to the ATC.
South China Morning Post (see here) was one of the Hong Kong publications reporting about it yesterday.
An Air China passenger plane almost hit a mountain on Lantau Island on Sunday night when it deviated from its flight path after taking off from Hong Kong International Airport, it was revealed on Monday.
Flight radar showed flight CA428 turning south towards Tai O village and the surrounding mountains at around 9.30pm, instead of continuing westwards along the normal route until it left the island.
An air control officer was forced to issue an immediate warning and set of directions to the pilot to correct the flight path.
It had been at 3,400 feet during the wrong turn. The peak nearby – the highest point on Lantau – is 3,066 feet. But according to Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho, a licensed pilot, the minimum safe altitude for that area is 4,300 feet.
I checked the movements of said flight on Flightaware:
While the flight path shows a distinctive curve it’s hard to judge anything from that what the original route would have been but let’s rely on the account of the Air Traffic Control.
… Tam earlier shared an audio recording of a conversation between the air traffic officer and the pilot, in which the officer is heard issuing repeated directions to “turn right immediately”, warning of “terrain ahead”. When the pilot does not turn, she can be heard warning of the mountains again and requesting he climb to 5,000 feet immediately.
After the pilot corrects the mistake, the officer tells him she will have to submit a report about the incident to authorities. The pilot can be heard apologising. …
So the right turn that can be seen on the path was indeed the result of the ATC instruction.
It’s a totally normal regulation that such incidents are subject to an official report by the authorities which is also forwarded to the carrier in question.
Hong Kong Airspace and well as tarmac is very congested due to the high activity in and out of Hong Kong International Airport. Of course that is no excuse for such a situation.
This oversight could have resulted in a catastrophy similar to Japan Airlines JL123 which crashed into a mountain, killing all but one passenger on board the fully occupied Boeing 747 aircraft.