Earlier this November, a China Airlines freighter flying from Manila to Taipei burst a tire upon landing in Taipei, causing the airport’s runway to close for nearly one hour.
According to a report in The Aviation Herald, the incident occurred on November 6, 2020. The Boeing 747-400 freighter, registered as B18710, was flying from Manila to Taipei as CI5880. According to the report, the aft inboard left main tire burst when landing.
Except for a three-year spell flying for Dragonair over a decade ago, the Boeing 747 has been with China Airlines since 2002.
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China Airlines keeps busy flying fleet of 747 freighters
The Taiwan-based airline (not to be confused with Air China) has a freighter fleet of 18 Boeing 747-400s. The older 747s (the first came to the airline in 2000) are due to be replaced by Boeing 777 freighters. China Airlines has firm orders for three of the 777s and options to take three more.
Buoyant freight operations have helped shield China Airlines from the worst of the 2020 travel downturn. Cargo revenues have surged by this, offsetting losses from passenger flights. In September alone, China Airlines showing a 102% cargo revenue increase for September. While cargo load factors have gone by only 5%, monthly cargo yield (freight revenue per ton-kilometer) has increased by 58% due to a rise in freight rates this year.
China Airlines deploys its Boeing 747 freighter around North Asia and across to Europe and North America. In the last fortnight, B18710 has not spent much time on the ground. The plane is a regular visitor to Anchorage before continuing on to destinations such as Dallas Fort Worth, Atlanta, and Chicago.
Closer to home, B18710 flies regularly to cities such as Manila, Guangzhou, Tokyo, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
A mixed safety record, but recent improvements
The airline, which has been around in one guise or another for over 60 years, has a decent accident and incident record these days. But over longer-term, its incident and accident record is not so rosy.
The last fatal incident was in 2002 when a China Airlines Boeing 747-200 flying from Taiwan to Hong Kong broke up mid-air. All 225 passengers and crew died. Because the aircraft in question was not correctly repaired after a tailstrike in 1980, fatigue cracking caused the hull to break up. Subsequent investigations found repairs to the plane had not been carried out in accordance with the Boeing Structural Repair Manual.
Between 1994 and 2002 alone, over just eight years, China Airlines had four fatal incidents. Three of those four incidents caused more than 200 deaths each. That’s one of the worst safety records among the mainline Asian airlines.
There was also a famous incident in 1993 when a China Airlines Boeing 747 ended up in Hong Kong Harbor after landing two-thirds the way down the runway at the old Kai Tak Airport.
But by the turn of the century, China Airlines was turning things around. It ended its practice of only hiring ex-Air Force pilots (who weren’t necessarily great at flying commercial aircraft), upgraded its safety and maintenance practices, and began buying new planes.
These days, China Airlines is fairly well regarded. The freighter incident earlier in November caused no injuries, and burst tires occasionally come with the territory. The aircraft was repaired and was back in service within 48 hours.