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Airline vows to boost crews' English

By  Xu Junqian (Xinhua)

08:44, December 01, 2011

SHANGHAI - China Eastern Airlines has pledged to improve the English language skills of its flight crew amid investigations into claims that one of its planes took off in Japan without clearance from air traffic control.

Details of what happened on Monday in Osaka remain unclear, yet initial reports suggest that an Airbus 330 operated by the Shanghai-based airline used a runway at Kansai International Airport before getting authorization to do so.

According to Kyodo News Agency, the airport's air traffic coordinator had told the pilot of flight MU516 in English to taxi to a runway and await further directions. However, the aircraft, which was carrying 245 passengers, instead took off.

The airplane landed safely later that afternoon at Shanghai's Pudong International Airport.

Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism said the pilot's actions could be considered a breach of the International Civil Aviation Covenant, even if the plane was kept at a safe distance from other aircraft landing and taking off.

Authorities in Japan are trying to determine whether the pilot intentionally ignored the order to wait.

However, the ministry said the probe is intended largely to prevent similar cases from happening, adding that there will be no punishment for the pilot, regardless of the results.

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