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.