An investigation into a close call at Tan Son Nhat Airport found that an air traffic control supervisor failed to listen to orders from the civil and military air controllers, an aviation chief said Friday.
Lai Xuan Thanh, director of the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam (CAAV), faulted the supervisor, who works for Vietnam Air Traffic Management Company, for failing to stop an Air Force helicopter from taking off soon after a Vietnam Airlines plane on October 29.
The supervisor's job was tasked with coordinating messages between civilian and military air traffic controllers. Civilian air controllers communicate with pilots in English and the latter in Vietnamese.
On Tuesday, the company said a Vietnam Airlines’ Airbus aircraft received an order to take off at 11:42AM.
Nine seconds later, a military officer cleared a helicopter to take off as part of a training session involving three other helicopters.
Thanh said the supervisor in charge could have intervened if he/she paid due attention to both orders.
The unidentified supervisor has acknowledged having failed in the fulfillment of his or her duty, according to news website VnExpress.
A source from Vietnam Airlines said their aircraft had ascended to 500 feet (around 152 meters) when the pilots spotted the military helicopter flying around 200 feet (61 meters) in front of it.
Thanh said a CAAV investigation absolved the Air Force controller of any fault in the close call.
Prior to the investigation, the Vietnam Air Traffic Management Company had erroneously blamed the military air traffic controller for “failing to monitor the civil aviation activities, either visually or via radar, and failing to cooperate with the civil air traffic controller.”
But Ha Huu The, head of the Air Force's air traffic management division, told VnExpress that the helicopter's departure was part of a planned training exercise that the civilian air traffic controllers had been briefed about.
Thanh, of the CAAV, said all airports in Vietnam are shared by civilian airlines and military air force units and both parties must improve their coordination to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.