Tokyo-Hanoi flight shooting threat unprecedented: authorities

By Doan Loan   January 6, 2022 | 12:26 am PT
Tokyo-Hanoi flight shooting threat unprecedented: authorities
A Boeing 787 lands at Fukuoka Airport for a security check after the flight received a shooting threat, January 5, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Xuan Hoa
Vietnam's aviation authorities stated the threat of shooting down a Tokyo-Hanoi flight operated by Vietnam Airlines is "surprising" but protocols are in place for such situations.

An official of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) told VnExpress on Thursday the threat to shoot down a Vietnam Airlines aircraft is "rare."

Vietnamese aircraft operating abroad have never been in such a situation before, he said anonymously.

The Vietnam Airlines flight from Tokyo to Hanoi on Wednesday had to turn back following a shooting down threat by a person claiming to be American and speaking Japanese.

The person called the airline's office in Japan saying: "Flight VN5311 had better turn back to Narita or it will be shot down when flying over Tokyo Bay."

By the time the threat was made, the aircraft, Boeing 787, had already passed Tokyo Bay. There were 47 passengers and 15 crew members on board.

However, the CAAV stated all assumptions must be taken into consideration, including that there were explosives on the plane.

Therefore, through discussions with Japanese authorities, all parties agreed to let the plane turn around and land at Fukuoka Airport for a security check.

The airport then arranged security and technical staff to review the information and safety of the flight.

Japanese officials visited the airport and spoke to the flight crew and passengers to evaluate the situation. After finding no unusual signs and deeming it safe to proceed, the flight was allowed to leave Fukuoka for Hanoi, where it landed at 6:12 p.m.

Passengers were informed the aircraft had some "technical problems." They did not learn anything about the threat until arriving in Hanoi.

"We were quite surprised when learning about the threat, but we are prepared for situations in which aircraft are illegally interfered with or somebody spread fake news to threaten aviation safety," said the CAAV official.

He added that situations threatening aviation security are all expected and therefore, there are always response plans for different scenarios.

The authority said Vietnam Airlines had implemented a security emergency response process to handle the issue in accordance with regulations and ensured safety for the flight and passengers.

The case has been reported to the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which will coordinate with Japanese authorities to launch an investigation.

VN5311 was the first regular flight between Vietnam and Japan after a hiatus of almost two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Most of the passengers were Vietnamese workers in Japan who were returning home after a long gap.

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