China penalizes airline for low-fuel landing row

August 30, 2011 - 12:15 AM

SHANGHAI (AP) — China's Civil Aviation Administration is punishing a local airline whose pilot balked at yielding to a Qatar Airways jet requesting to land because it was short of fuel.

The CAAC, in a notice Tuesday, described the incident as a "serious violation of regulations." Local reports at the time said the aircraft came dangerously close to collision before both landed safely.

The Qatar jet from Doha was circling over Shanghai's Pudong International Airport on Aug. 13 due to bad weather when it radioed it was short of fuel and asked to land instead at the city's other main airport, Hongqiao International.

But the pilot of the Juneyao Airlines jet repeatedly refused requests to make way, even after the Qatar jet issued a "mayday" call. He reportedly argued that his aircraft also was short on fuel.

The CAAC barred the pilot, a Korean citizen, from working in China and said it would notify the South Korean government of the case. The copilot's flight permit was suspended for six months, it said.

It ordered Juneyao to reduce its flights by 10 percent and said the carrier would be temporarily barred from carrying out plans for expansion or hiring any foreign flight staff.

All foreign flight crews of the airline also will be required to participate in at least 40 hours of training on Chinese aviation regulations, it said.

Shanghai-based Juneyao, one of several private carriers in an aviation market dominated by state-run airlines, said it would fire the pilot responsible for the dispute and ground the co-pilot for six months.

It said that regardless of the circumstances surrounding the incident, it recognized it was at fault and apologized.

The administration said a probe found that at the time of the landing dispute, 20 aircraft were waiting to land at Pudong. Air traffic control immediately sought to arrange for the fuel-short Qatar jet to land, but the Juneyao pilot refused six requests to give way, the CAAC said.

Results of the investigation found that the Juneyao jet had enough fuel to stay airborne for 42 more minutes while the Qatar jet had only enough fuel for 18 more minutes of flight, it said.

The question of whether the Qatar aircraft had violated fuel carriage regulations would be discussed with Qatar's air authority, it said.

Originally founded in 1991 as a charter service, Juneyao began operating commercial flights out of Shanghai in 2006.

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AP researcher Fu Ting contributed.