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Chinese plane in 'major incident'

By Yang Jian (Shanghai Daily)

09:57, July 07, 2012

China Eastern Airlines are investigating claims that one of its planes entered a runway without permission at Naha Airport in Okinawa, Japan.

A Japan Asia Airways plane which was two minutes away had to abort its landing, the Japan Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry said. Several ministry officials were onboard the Japanese plane.

The Japan Transport Safety Board has defined the case as a "major incident," meaning that it could have led to casualties.

The board sent three officials to the airport to interview the Chinese pilots.

China Eastern has been in touch with the Japanese air controllers as part of its investigation, the Shanghai-based airlines said in an online statement.

"We still know little about the case and are investigating with the Japanese side to find out the truth," a spokesman for the airline told Shanghai Daily yesterday.

Ordered to wait

On Thursday, China Eastern's MU2046 flight with 27 passengers and crew onboard was due to take off from Naha Airport at 1:30pm and land at Pudong International Airport at 3:15pm.

Japanese air controllers ordered the Airbus A319 to wait on the taxiway at around 1:25pm, but the pilots ignored the instruction and kept moving onto the runway, the ministry said.

The controllers then had to ask the Asia Airways plane, which was 5.6 kilometers away, to ascend again and delay its landing.

When the Chinese plane stopped, the front part of its body was on the runway, the ministry said.

It took off shortly after the incident and landed at Pudong at around 3pm.

The Asia Airways Airbus A320 was on a test flight of a new route between Narita and Naha airports to be opened next month, which was why Japanese officials were among the 38 passengers onboard.

"The Chinese pilot might have failed to understand the English orders from the Japanese air controller," said Zhou Jisheng, a civil aviation expert.

Zhou said that pilots are told to strictly follow instructions from air controllers, so it was unlikely for the China Eastern pilots to have ignored them deliberately.

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