Vietnamese air traffic controllers suspended for sleeping on duty, leaving shift

By Doan Loan   March 21, 2017 | 07:50 pm PT
Vietnamese air traffic controllers suspended for sleeping on duty, leaving shift
The air traffic control tower at Cat Bi International Airport in the northern port city of Hai Phong. Photo by VnExpress
Two VietJet Air flights lost contact with the officers earlier this month.

Vietnam’s aviation authorities have fined and withdrew the licenses of two air traffic controllers at the northern Cat Bi International Airport after holding them accountable for communication breakdowns with the aircrew of two VietJet Air flights earlier this month.

The two officers had “seriously violated” navigation regulations and failed to accomplish their missions, the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) said in a statement released Tuesday. The accidents at the airport in Hai Phong City, around 100 kilometers (62 miles) east of Hanoi, severely threatened passengers' safety, it said.

They were fined VND7.5 million (US$330) each and suspended for two months. The head of the air traffic control tower at Cat Bi airport has also been suspended, the aviation authority said.

At around 10:51 p.m. on March 9, the pilot of flight VJ921, leaving Hai Phong for Seoul, was unable to connect with the air traffic control tower after making 29 calls. The connection was only resumed 50 minutes later.

Earlier on the same day, flight VJ292 from Ho Chi Minh City had been scheduled to land at 11:30 p.m. in Hai Phong but the pilot was not able to communicate with air traffic controllers after 10 calls. He was forced to circle the airplane before finally landing at 11:39 p.m.

An unnamed aviation official said one of the air traffic controllers was not present when the incidents happened while the other was sleeping.

Vietnam’s aviation market is growing at the third-fastest pace in Asia-Pacific, with the number of travelers last year jumping 29 percent from 2015 to about 52.2 million passengers, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam. The fast development has put pressure on air navigation and caused overloads at major airports.

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