Japanese agency asked to verify Vietnam’s flight simulations

By Mai Ha, Thanh Nien News

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A Vietnam Airlines aircraft. Photo: Mai Ha

The Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) has officially asked the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to verify the results of a so-called “golden flight path” test run performed by CAAV and national carrier Vietnam Airlines.
Lai Xuan Thanh, CAAV’s chief, said Friday JICA will act as an independent agency to review the flight simulation results provided by the CAAV so that the agency can determine a better solution (if possible) to cutting the flight time.
On September 3, Vietnam Airlines pilots and CAAV ran flight simulations of the “golden flight path,” which cuts a straight line through Laos and Cambodia to connect Vietnam’s two biggest cities – Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
The new flight path is 85 kilometers shorter than the current route, according to figures on the simulators. However, pilots said that they had to decelerate earlier than on the current path, which saved just five minutes from the total flight time.
The new flight path saved 190 kilograms of fuel, according to flight simulation results.
Vietnam Airlines and the CAAV said they have tested both types of plane used on the route: the Boeing 777 and Airbus 321.
The simulations were run to determine whether the 1,140-kilometer straight shot from Hanoi to HCMC (through the airspace of Laos and Cambodia) saves more time and fuel than the traditional flight path, which is 1,274 kilometers long.
The “golden flight path” was initiated by Mai Trong Tuan, a former pilot, in 2009, and later by Dr. Tran Dinh Ba of the Vietnam Economic Association in 2012, but has been repeatedly rejected by the CAAV as unfeasible.
According to Ba, if the current Hanoi-HCMC route is replaced by a straight-shot through Lao and Cambodian airspace, planes could cut travel time by 26 minutes (assuming they used Boeing 777 aircraft) and save more than US$300 million in fuel and other costs every year.
Ba said the current north-south flight path causes huge losses to domestic air carriers every year.
The CAAV rejected the plan as unfeasible, saying that if airplanes fly into Lao and Cambodian airspace, the carriers will have to pay transit and other fees.
Flight safety management may also become an issue, the Authority said.
Early this year, Ba asked the government to consider his “straight route” idea in order to cut travel time and money to benefit both carriers and passengers.
In July, Minister of Transport Dinh La Thang asked CAAV to start working on a plan for the new Hanoi-HCMC route based on Ba’s idea.

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