Chinese pilot labelled a hero after brave split-second decision that saved 439 lives

Captain He Chao at an awards ceremony in China this week. Photo / Weibo
Captain He Chao at an awards ceremony in China this week. Photo / Weibo

A quick-thinking pilot in China has avoided a major runway collision with another passenger jet that has saved the lives of at least 439 people.

Incredible vision of the incident was captured, showing how the sharp reflexes of experienced Eastern Airlines captain He Chao averted a potential disaster. Mr Chao was rewarded with $605,000 for his courage, and his colleagues in the cabin received $113,000.

In the incident, which happened at Hongqiao International Airport on October 11, Captain Chao's 320 jet airbus was advancing down the runway for takeoff when he noticed an A330 airbus in his plane's pathway.

When Chao saw the plane crossing his runway he quickly assessed that he could not avoid the collision, so he accelerated his plane to full thrust to take off sooner, missing the other jet by 19m. Once airborne Captain Chao continued the plane's journey to Tianjin for a safe landing about 100 minutes later.

According to The People's Daily in China there were 413 passengers and 26 crew in total on-board the two aircraft.

The near-miss was widely reported in the Chinese media because of its uncanny resemblance to a disaster in the Canary Islands in 1977 when two passengers jets collided on a runway, killing 583 people.

Eastern Airlines published a report into the October 11 on its website, in which Chao is described as a "Captain Mighty" and "Captain Decisively".

An investigation into the incident by China's aviation authority (CAAC) concluded that air traffic control were at fault for the incident, and that the control centre and crew of A330 airbus failed to maintain proper communication.

Two air traffic controllers subsequently lost their licences following the investigation, and 13 other traffic control staff were punished for their involvement.

- news.com.au

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