An ATR 72 belonging to Vietnam Airlines with its remaining front tire after it lost the other Monday. The loss was only noticed by the ground crew after landing. Photo: Tien Phong
Vietnam Airlines resumed operation of its ATR-72 airplanes early Tuesday after grounding them for an inspection of their tires soon after one of them lost a front tire while landing the previous afternoon.
Its flight VN1673 arrived safely in the central city of Da Nang at 2pm Monday from Hai Phong in the north with 41 passengers.
The crew were unaware that the aircraft had lost one of its two front tires until airport technical staff noticed it.
Vu Tien Khanh, the pilot, said engineer and co-pilot Trinh Linh Tho had done a preflight inspection and reported that everything was normal.
Khanh, 34, who has been flying ATR 72s for six years, himself did safety checks before taking off.
"I took off smoothly," he said.
Unlike Airbus and Boeing aircraft, the French-Italian ATR 72 does not indicate tire pressure, and so it is not known how and where the tire was lost.
Khanh said the weather was good when they landed at Da Nang Airport but since there was a slight cross wind he handled the landing himself instead of handing over the controls to the co-pilot.
"I asked the engineer in the cockpit later whether he noticed some abnormality, but he said no."
But he said taxiing had needed more power than normal.
"After the landing, the technical staff were terrified to discover that a tire was gone.
"Of course, passengers were not aware of the incident."
Lai Xuan Thanh, director of the Aviation Department, said the incident was serious and the Ministry of Transport immediately ordered inspections of all 14 of Vietnam Airlines's ATR-72 aircraft.
Technicians found nothing wrong with the front tires of any of the other planes.
The carrier has informed the aircraft manufacturer and sent the tire axle to Paris for investigation. The tire is thought to have fallen off when the aircraft was in the air and is yet to be found.
The aircraft is four years old and underwent a maintenance on September 21.
Asked whether the safe landing was down to luck, Khanh said the carrier's pilots receive training twice a year, including in dealing with emergencies.
"The thing I am concerned most is if that tire hit someone on the ground," he said.
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