...And The Accident That Wasn't?

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Fortunately, all that can be harmed are the egos and reputations of a newspaper and an airline in a fracas over an incident in Hong Kong Aug. 30. The London Daily Telegraph, quoting unnamed sources, claimed in an Oct. 14 story that a Cathay Pacific Boeing 747-400 flew "uncontrolled" for three minutes over Hong Kong, almost hit a mountain and nearly stalled while on a go-around at Chep Lap Kok Airport. In a subsequent story in The Standard, the airline insists "the aircraft was never, at any stage, close to terrain ..." and was "always comfortably above any speed which could have led to a stall." One thing the paper and the airline do agree on, however, is that sometime during the missed approach, the autopilot became disengaged. The flight from London was uneventful until about four miles from touchdown when a wind-shear warning went off. The crew aborted the landing and began setting up for a second try. According to the Daily Telegraph story, the crew thought the autopilot was still engaged and wrote off the plane's unusual directional changes to the rough weather. The paper says it was three minutes before the crew realized nothing (or no one) was flying the plane and that in the meantime it had veered almost 180 degrees off course and came close to a nearby mountain peak. The Chinese Civil Aviation Department refuted the claim, saying the plane deviated from its course by 25 degrees in either direction. The department did, however, tell the airline to remind all of its flight crew staff of the correct procedures for a go-around "and the associated use of the autopilot." We can't wait to see the movie.