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Vietnam probes emergency Airbus landing, suspends flight crew

Thursday, December 18, 2014, 12:32 GMT+7

The Vietnamese aviation authority has set up a team to investigate the emergency landing of a Vietnam Airlines plane in Hanoi that prompted hijacking scare on Tuesday evening, and has also suspended the relevant flight crew.

>> Pilot presses wrong button, prompting hijacking scare at Vietnam airport Head of the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam (CAAV) La Xuan Thanh on Wednesday signed a decision to set up a team to investigate the case in which anti-terrorism measures were deployed at Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport International Airport on Tuesday evening after the captain of an Airbus A321-200 plane reportedly pressed the hijacking code button by mistake when asking for permission to make an urgent landing due to a pressure incident on the flight. The team consists of 12 members headed by Do Quang Viet, deputy head of the CAAV. The same day national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines (VNA) also suspended the crew of Flight VN1266, headed by Czech captain Pechanec Marek, for investigation. Earlier on Tuesday evening the black box of the aircraft was sealed and sent to the CAAV for examination. As reported, a source told Tuoi Tre on Tuesday that after detecting that the pressure inside the plane had suddenly dropped, the Czech captain of the flight, which was flying from Ho Chi Minh City to Vinh Airport in the central province of Nghe An, decided to make an urgent landing at Noi Bai, but instead of pressing the button for the emergency code (7700), he mistakenly pressed the button for the hijacking code (7500). As a result, units at the airport deployed measures to cope with the situation in which a plane had been hijacked by terrorists.

Many sources had earlier said there were signs showing the plane, with 135 passengers and seven crewmembers on board, was hijacked.

The plane landed safely at the airport at 7:15 pm the same day amid the deployment of the airport’s security forces and facilities.

VNA later issued a press release confirming that the plane had to make an urgent landing following a technical incident that led to a sudden drop in pressure inside the plane.

The plane departed at 5:12 pm from Ho Chi Minh City and when it neared Vinh Airport a technical problem occurred, causing the pressure inside the plane to suddenly drop, the press release said.

The plane, therefore, had to reduce altitude and Captain Marek then asked for permission to make an urgent landing at Noi Bai to receive the best support, the VNA added. Nguyen Nam Lien, an experienced VNA captain with some 17,000 hours of flying time, said that a sudden drop in pressure inside a plane, like in the Flight VN1266 case, which requires descending and using oxygen masks is a serious situation in which the lives of passengers and the crew can be counted in seconds. Such a circumstance requires rapid reaction by the crew, and in dealing with such an emergency they can mistakenly deliver the wrong message to the ground for assistance, Lien, who is a pilot trainer, said.

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