BEIJING — A commercial airline pilot failed to locate the runway before landing and abandoned the plane after it crashed in northeastern China two years ago, the government said Friday and called for the chief pilot to be prosecuted.
The 2010 crash of a Henan Airlines plane killed 44 people and injured 52 and was China’s first major commercial air disaster in nearly six years.
The State Administration of Work Safety also suggested in its investigation report that the airline should be fined 5 million yuan ($795,000) for lax safety management.
The agency’s investigation said chief pilot Qi Quanjun violated aviation rules during the descent, did not locate the runway before landing and abandoned the crashed aircraft.
The Embraer E-190 jet hit the ground 690 meters (2,260 feet) short of the runway at the Lindu airport in Heilongjiang province’s Yichun city, then burst into flames. Media reports at the time said fog shrouded the runway during the landing.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China has said that a 2008-2009 investigation had found that 200 pilots falsified their flying histories, with more than half of them working for Henan Airlines’ parent company. It said airlines desperate for staff had been hiring pilots whose resumes had been faked. The most recent report didn’t say if Qi was among those who doctored his resume.
The report said Qi should have his pilot’s license revoked, be removed from his post and expelled from the Communist Party, and should also face criminal charges though it didn’t specify what they would be.
State media said in 2010 that Qi was a former People’s Liberation Army pilot and had been unable to speak after the crash due to severe injuries to his face.
Full-tilt expansion of Chinese air traffic in the 1990s led to a series of crashes that gave China the reputation of being unsafe. The poor record prompted the government to improve safety drastically, from airlines to new air traffic management systems at airports.
Prior to the Yichun disaster, the last major passenger jet crash in China was in November 2004, when a China Eastern airplane plunged into a lake in northern China, killing all 53 on board and two on the ground.