Vietnamese air traffic controllers, passenger punished for blunders

By Mai Ha, Thanh Nien News

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A Jetstar Pacific aircraft. Photo credit: Vietnam News Agency A Jetstar Pacific aircraft. Photo credit: Vietnam News Agency

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Vietnamese aviation authorities issued punishments against two air traffic controllers and a passenger as part of a strict zero-tolerance approach to procedural violations following a startling string of global aviation catastrophes. 

The Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) fined two air traffic controllers for causing a four-minute loss of contact with a Jetstar Pacific pilot shortly before landing.

The incident occurred on July 23, as a plane traveling from Ho Chi Minh City began its descent toward Vinh Airport in Nghe An Province. 
Air traffic controller Le Minh depressed the wrong button on a communication panel, while issuing directives for the pilot to land. The error blocked the transmission of his directive to the pilot.

The resulting four-minute loss of contact forced the pilot to pull the plane back into the air.

After contact was re-established, the plane finally landed at the airport at 10:55 p.m. --10 minutes behind schedule.

Minh was fined VND7.5 million (US$353) and had his licensed revoked for two months.

Chu Thanh Ba, another air traffic controller who was on duty that night, was also fined VND7.5 million for leaving his seat while the plane was about to land at the airport.

The CAAV ordered five air traffic controllers from Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi to organize a training session for their counterparts at the Vinh Airport.

The same day, the Northern Airports Authority fined Pham Minh Ninh, 61, VND15 million ($707) for opening an emergency exit following a flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Thanh Hoa Province on July 22.

Minh reportedly opened the plane’s emergency exit while it was taxiing to its gate at Tho Xuan Airport in Thanh Hoa.

The incident forced a team of engineers to re-secure the exit door, causing a 1 hour and 40 minute delay for passengers who scheduled to take the same plane to Ho Chi Minh City.

The airline decided to offload 23 passengers whose seats were located near the opened emergency exit for safety reasons.

The group was loaded into a car to catch another HCMC-bound flight in Hanoi -- 140 kilometers away.

Minh told inspectors he was anxious to get out of the plane and thought the emergency exit was just another door. He added that it was his first time on an airplane.

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