Vietnam Airlines violating rules on hiring pilots

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No disciplinary measures taken after civil aviation authority finds national carrier breached its own procedures and regulations


A Vietnam Airlines aircraft taxiing at Hanoi's Noi Bai International Airport. The national flag carrier has broken its own rules in hiring foreign pilots, an inquiry has found.

National carrier Vietnam Airlines (VNA) has been breaking its own procedures and regulations in recruiting pilots, the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) has found.

The "shortcomings" in contracting pilots were announced by the aviation authority after it completed an inspection of VNA from November 10 to December 1.

The inspection of the carrier's recruitment methods had been launched after controversy erupted over its hiring of a South Korean pilot who had apparently forged documents about his experience in flying Airbus 320 aircraft.

South Korean co-pilot Kim Tae Hun, 36, suspected of using bogus flight records, left the country in August and has not returned since.

Speculation over Hun using fake documentation had arisen several months ago following his incompetent piloting of a VNA Airbus 320 aircraft while landing at the Gimhae International Airport in South Korea.

According to a statement by CAAV on November 3, in April Hun made an unsuccessful landing attempt after which the Vietnamese pilot in command, Vuong Van My, took over and the airplane landed safely.

Following the incident, several South Korean newspapers reported that Hun actually had just one hour of experience in flying Airbus A320 but had falsely declared that he had 680 hours when applying to work for VNA.

VNA has requested the pilots on the flight to resubmit their documents on flight experience. Hun said he would have to return to Indonesia to ask for the required verification from a carrier that he used to work for earlier, but has not returned since.

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According to CAAV inspectors, Hun's documents, issued by foreign agencies, were not notarized by a consulate and translated into Vietnamese as required. His curriculum vitae did not comply with a form regulated for foreign workers by the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs.

VNA claimed that it had compared Hun's documents with original copies before proposing that the CAAV issues a flight certificate for Hun.

However, CAAV requested for confirmation from Batavia Air in Indonesia the airline that Hun claimed had issued his flight records on Airbus 320 aircraft and was told that the document was forged.

"Relevant organizations and agencies have checked and collated Kim Tae Hun's documents but failed to identify (them as bogus) because Kim had forged them," CAAV inspectors said.

They said Hun's behavior has highlighted two violations. One, he did not have enough A320 flight experience for commercial flights (at least 100 hours or 40 stages with a pilot in command) and Vietnam Airlines had breached its own regulations in recruiting foreign pilots.

CAAV inspected documents of 55 foreign pilots that VNA hired in 2010 and 2011 and found that their CVs do not comply with required form, while other documents had not been notarized and translated into Vietnamese as required.

The hiring of pilots was conducted under an "urgent hiring" process that is only allowed in emergencies. However, in these instances, these were not emergency hirings and were planned in advance. For normal hiring of pilots, VNA is required to send its needs to five authorized agencies first. The agencies would identify suitably qualified pilots and introduce them to the airline.

VNA directly contracted two foreign pilots in 2010 and 2011 - Huynh Ly Phuong Dong and Yong Suk Lee, but CAAV's Quality Safety and Security Agency did not participate in assessing the pilot's documents as required, inspectors found.

Referring to Hun's case, inspectors concluded that there were shortcomings in checking and assessing his documents.

Follow the inspection, the civil aviation authority has asked VNA to avoid similar shortcomings in the future by reviewing and amending the process of recruiting and hiring foreign pilots and facilitating the process of issuing work permit for foreign pilots.

CAAV did not mention disciplinary measures against any one involved, only instructing VNA to "learn from the experience" and asking the carrier to report on its implementation of the instructions by February 15 in 2012.

Earlier, VNA had levied a fine of VND200 million (US$9,520) on Direct Personnel International (DPI), the Irish agency that supplied Hun.

DPI told Thanh Nien Weekly in an email on Tuesday that they have been "working closely with our client Vietnam Airlines in relation to this matter and are continuing to do so." It did not elaborate.

After leaving VNA, Hun worked for Lao Airlines but also left soon after.

"I would like to inform you that, in order to ensure flight safety and protect Lao Airlines' interest and image, South Korean pilot Kim Tae Hun is no more a Lao Airlines employee," the airline's vice president Somsamay Visounnarath told Thanh Nien Weekly.

Visounnarath said Hun was a trainee for the airlines for 3 months for the ATR-72 aircraft type rating and performed line training to obtain 500 flight hours.

"His license issuance and training traceability shall be under the responsibility of concerned authority to perform the investigation," he added, although it was not clear whether he was referring to Vietnamese or Lao authorities.

Meanwhile, Thanh Nien Weekly received email correspondence from a man claiming to be Hun, confirming that he had left Lao Airlines and moved to another airline "because of better terms and conditions."

The email insisted that Hun had A320 flight experience and that he could not get approval from the Indonesian airline due to some conflict. The email claimed that a "pilot agency" that he had applied to a year ago had double checked his experience and found no problem.

He said he had told the agency to check his data because he did not have his own logbook, and that they had done so and informed him that there was no problem.

Stating that he couldn't obtain his detail data from Indonesia due to bad relations with the company. Hun believes the problem lies with training fees, the email said.

Following the inspection, CAAV instructed its safety criteria branch to "widely inform foreign aviation authorities" about Kim Tae Hun's fraud and continue working with Indonesian aviation authorities on the case.

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