Crack on windshield forces Hong Kong Airlines flight to return from Manila airspace

 Clifford Lo

A cracked windshield forced an Indonesia-bound Hong Kong Airlines plane carrying 261 people to return to the city yesterday.

The Airbus A330 had entered Manila airspace when its pilot decided to turn back to Chek Lap Kok airport, the Civil Aviation Department said.

“The pilot discovered a crack in the cockpit’s windshield about 1-1/2 hours after take-off,” the airline said. “For safety reasons, the pilot decided to fly back to Hong Kong airport.”

The carrier did not reveal the size of the crack. “We are still investigating the cause of the incident,” it said.

Flight HX707 left Hong Kong for Bali at 12.45pm with 249 passengers and 12 crew members.

More than an hour into the journey, the pilot made a U-turn after alerting Manila’s aviation authorities, which then notified Hong Kong’s air traffic control at about 2.30pm.

Ten fire engines and an ambulance were placed on standby at the airport’s fire station.

The aircraft landed safely at 4.05pm. No injuries were reported. The passengers flew out on another plane about 1-1/2 hours later, Hong Kong Airlines said.

An airline spokeswoman said the plane was grounded and repair work would be carried out. The Civil Aviation Department said it would follow up.

Hong Kong Airlines has been involved in a series of incidents since its 2006 launch. On 08.08.2013, the pilot of a Bangkok-bound plane mistook the runway clearance of another jet as his own. The plane crossed the red stop line and was immediately checked by air traffic controllers.

A month later on 16.09.2013, a flight headed for Nanjing was originally instructed to climb to 9,000 feet. It was later told not to do so because of conflicting traffic at that level, but it still ascended to the higher level.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung in November voiced concern that the carrier faced seven “deviations from regulations” in August and September last year.

A crack in the cockpit windshield similarly forced a Singapore-bound Cathay Pacific flight carrying more than 300 passengers to head back to Hong Kong 15 minutes after take-off in January 2012. In May last year, a Hong Kong-bound Cathay jet with 206 passengers turned back to Bangkok and made an emergency landing after a fire alarm in its cargo hold went off.