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Wrong Turn Nearly Causes Air China Mountain Collision

Wrong Turn Nearly Causes Air China Mountain Collision
Joe Cortez

Misunderstood instruction by pilots causes “near-miss” incident with mountain.

Flyers aboard Air China Flight 428 are grateful to be alive after their flight narrowly avoided colliding with a mountain shortly after takeoff. The South China Morning Post reports that the Airbus A320 departing from Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) took a wrong turn, causing the flight to almost meet disaster.

According to flight records, CA428 experienced a normal takeoff from HKG. However, the pilots prematurely made a left turn after climbing to 3,400 feet. The early turn put the aircraft on a bearing towards Lantau Peak, with a height of 3,066 feet. When air traffic controllers noticed the difference, they immediately instructed pilots to turn right and increase their climb rate.

Upon hearing the instructions, the aircraft adjusted their altitude in order to avoid the peak. The last-minute notice spared the aircraft from impact with the mountain, potentially saving everyone aboard. The flight was able to continue to their destination of Chengdu without further incident.

While the aircraft reported a higher altitude than the peak, Hong Kong lawmakers note that the minimum safest altitude for operations over the mountain is 4,300 feet. Officials criticized the pilots for their decision, noting that if it was carrying more passengers or cargo, it may not have successfully climbed to avoid the mountain.

In a statement to the English-language newspaper, the Chinese flag carrier claimed that pilots “had doubt” about the pilot’s instructions during the takeoff phase due to a busy radio channel. The airline told journalists in a statement they would “further strengthen our safety education.” Officials have not announced if they will launch an investigation into the near-miss incident.

View Comments (12)


  1. LukeO9

    June 6, 2017 at 6:27 am

    Errm. Isn’t 3,400 feet higher than 3,066 feet?

  2. Cymbo

    June 6, 2017 at 8:27 am

    Too close for comfort….. and safety.

  3. Paella747

    June 6, 2017 at 9:52 am

    Exactly what I thought when I was reading the story. Had to read it a couple of times to see if I was reading the altitude and the mountain heights correctly…….

  4. toz100

    June 6, 2017 at 11:27 am

    Ehhmmm, didn’t you read the article? Safe overflight requires 4,200 feet. Besides that the pilots made a wrong move and could have crashed with a heavier load than they were lucky to have instead.

  5. JohnnyRockets

    June 7, 2017 at 2:29 am

    Pilot thought he was at Kai-Tak.

  6. jascp

    June 7, 2017 at 8:38 pm

    The headline is flatout wrong and the the article tries to defend the headline. At no point was the airplane going to hit the peak. It was risky for sure and a dumb idea. Click bait.

  7. Whodunit68


    June 8, 2017 at 3:36 am

    ehhmmmm toz100, didn’t you read it? It says “…that the minimum safest altitude for operations over the mountain is 4,300 feet.”

  8. OPNLguy

    June 8, 2017 at 4:45 am

    Legal terrain clearance is 1,000 feet…
    No investigation? What’s the problem? “They got away with it” without killing everybody…
    Not a great safety culture, in apparently not wanting the know why the mistake got made..

  9. DJ_Steve

    June 8, 2017 at 5:15 am

    Hmm I think an Airbus A320 is smarter enough to know when it is too close to any mountains, Hence the usual Terrain ahead pull up warning, now this really is a non-news story!!

  10. kevinsac

    June 8, 2017 at 7:46 am

    Although the designated safe clearing was 4,200 feet …. it would have been tinsy tiny close….but if the plane already was at 3,400 before making the turn, it would easily have overflown the 3,066 peak.

  11. MillionMiles

    June 26, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    Apart from a sensationalistic headline both here as well as in mass media, the question here is how did the communication error occur? Was it because of language difficulties or channel clutter or others? We don’t exactly know who need to take the responsibility yet.

    I’m sure HK’s authority will have an enquiry and will wait to see what they find.

  12. Global321

    November 5, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    While the wrong turn, there was no potential crash issue. The CLIMBING turn started at 3,400. Given the distance to Lantau Peak, the plane likely would have likely cleared 4,200 with ease. Looking at a map, rate of climb, distance, etc, they would have likely been at 5,000 or more when the reached Lantau Peak. Not saying it was wise, but there was ZERO chance of a crash. As others have stated, click bait.

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