A Vietnam Airlines Airbus climbing out of Ho Chi Minh City last week hit torrential rain and hail, cracking both windshields. The incident caused the pilot to declare a PAN PAN and return to Ho Chi Minh City. There were no reported injuries to either passengers or crew.
Aircraft hits heavy rain and hail
According to a report in The Aviation Herald, a Vietnam Airlines A321-200 (registration VN-A331) was operating flight VN1402 on Saturday, June 13. VH1402 is the regular 16:05 departure from Ho Chi Minh City.
The Aviation Herald reports that the Airbus was making the standard instrument departure route KADUM 2D. The aircraft hit heavy rain and hail. Intense hail cracked both windscreens. The pilots stopped the climb at 10,000 feet, declared a PAN PAN, and headed back to Ho Chi Minh City. The Airbus landed safely.
The aircraft, VN-A331, was delivered to Vietnam Airlines in December 2011, making it just over eight and a half years old. The plane usually jets around Vietnam. Before hitting the hailstorm on the weekend, the aircraft had that day flown Da Nang to Hanoi and Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City.
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Not the first time Vietnam Airlines has had with cracked windshields
It isn’t the first incident that Vietnam Airlines has had with cracked windscreens.
Back in 2007, a Vietnam Airlines Boeing 777 flying from Paris to Ha Noi had to make an emergency landing in Baku, Azerbaijan, after cracks started appearing in the left windshield. The plane landed safely without injury to any of the 297 passengers and crew. However, Vietnam Airlines had to send another Boeing 777 to Baku to retrieve the stranded passengers.
In 2016, an A321-200 (the same type of aircraft involved in last weekend’s incident) was operating a flight from Hanoi to Can Tho. One hundred and seventy-seven passengers and seven crew were on board. The flight was well underway when a windshield cracked. The aircraft was required to divert to Ho Chi Minh City.
The past year has been quiet at Vietnam Airlines
More recently, things have been reasonably quiet at Vietnam Airlines when it comes to noteworthy incidents. Most seriously, in September 2019, a Vietnam Airlines Boeing 787-9 was one minute out from Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport and coming in fast. It was at 675 feet when ATC noticed the aircraft’s landing gear wasn’t down.
Australia’s Transport and Safety Bureau initially categorized that incident as an “incorrect configuration incident.” After the pilots were notified of the problem by Melbourne ATC, the plane performed a missed approach, went around, and later landed safely.
In March this year, another Vietnam Airlines A321 had a tire explode as it commenced its runway roll out of Ho Chi Minh City. The takeoff was aborted, but the plane had reached a high speed. That blowout resulted in the metal wheel in the landing gear striking the tarmac. It caused a grass fire adjacent to the runway. Fortunately, there were no injuries.
The incident on the weekend may have seemed avoidable. However, the airspace around Ho Chi Minh City is prone to cumulonimbus and widespread evening storms at this time of the year. They can be hard to avoid. Hail can be somewhat random, and many older radar systems have issues with detecting ice in the atmosphere.
Having returned safely to Ho Chi Minh City, VN-A331 remains there while repairs are made. Another aircraft carried the passengers through to Dong Hoi, where they arrived safe but about two hours late.