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August 25, 2011

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Pilot 'refused' emergency order

China's civil aviation regulator is investigating claims that a pilot refused to give way to a plane that was running out of fuel as it waited to land at Shanghai's Hongqiao International Airport.

The pilot of Qatari Airways flight QR888 had sent a Mayday signal - the international distress call - but a Juneyao Airlines pilot ahead of the Qatari plane in the airport queue refused to give way saying he, too, had little fuel left, according to a post on the microblog site

The Qatari plane was queuing to land at the Pudong International Airport in bad weather on August 13 when it reported that its fuel would soon be used up. The pilot asked to land at the Hongqiao instead.

Air traffic control asked the Juneyao plane to give way but the pilot failed to comply, saying his fuel supply was low too, according to the post.

However, the Chinese plane was found to have sufficient fuel to keep it in the air for another hour while the Qatari pilot had just five minutes' supply left, the post said.

Air traffic control rearranged landing orders to secure a safe landing of the Qatari plane, said an official from the East China Regional Administration under the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

"The investigation is being conducted by the air safety management office after we received a report from the air traffic management bureau," the official said.

It will be based on data records and inquiries of the two carriers as well as the air traffic management bureau, he said.

Under China's civil aviation rules, a pilot can be fined or lose his license if there is a refusal to give way to an airplane that has made a Mayday call.

Both Juneyao Airlines and Qatar Airways confirmed that the incident was being investigated.

Juneyao has suspended the air crew involved while the investigation is ongoing, it said in a statement late yesterday.

"Weather, remainder of jet fuel, and instructions by the air traffic control department should all be probed to determine who will be responsible for the issue," said a Juneyao Airlines' marketing manager. "What the post has said was not all the truth."

A Qatar Airways marketing official confirmed that there was a dispute on August 13 and that the aviation regulator was to be holding meetings with both airlines in order to discuss the incident.


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