Technical fault has been ruled out in a serious incident where the nose wheels of a Vietjet plane fell off minutes before the newly-delivered Airbus A321 landed at an airport in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, the country’s aviation authority said on Friday.
Vietjet flight VJ356, carrying 207 passengers, arrived at Buon Ma Thuot Airport in the namesake city from Ho Chi Minh City at 11:03 pm on Thursday.
Both wheels of the nose landing gear of the aircraft flew off during landing, but the plane managed to come to a halt safely on the runway, the transport ministry said in a report submitted to the prime minister to brief him of the incident.
Vietjet said on Friday morning all 207 passengers were safe, with only some slightly affected and immediately taken to the hospital for health checks.
Investigators have recovered the plane’s flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder on Friday, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV).
“The recorders will be decrypted and analyzed next week to simulate the plane’s landing procedure for investigation,” said CAAV director Dinh Viet Thang.
The aviation authority is also working with the flight’s Filipino captain and his Spanish first officer to understand what might have happened on Thursday night.
“Investigation results will become available soon, but we can safely say for now that technical factors have been ruled out because the plane did not encounter any technical problem,” Thang said.
Passengers reported hearing a loud noise upon touchdown, and were told to evacuate the plane through emergency doors. All passengers and crew are safe despite the rough landing.
“The plane was in good condition prior to landing. Weather conditions were also favorable, with ten kilometers of sight,” Thang said.
“The pilots didn’t request ground support before landing,” he added.
As technical fault has been ruled out, other A321 planes in the fleets of Vietjet and national carrier Vietnam Airlines are still allowed to remain in operation, CAAV said.
Although six people sustained minor injuries during the landing, CAAV said the incident is not categorized as an air accident according to International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards.
For an aviation incident to be considered an accident, there must be at least one person who is hospitalized for 48 hours or more.
All hospitalized passengers on the Vietjet flight were discharged on Friday after less than 24 hours, according to a transport ministry report.
Buon Ma Thuot Airport has resumed regular operation after the plane was towed to a hangar at 12:00 pm on Friday and the damaged runway was fixed.
Authorities have also located one of the missing wheels still in one piece, while the remaining wheel is found with only its rim as the tire had apparently fallen off.