A Virgin Australia flight to Hong Kong made an emergency landing in Melbourne shortly after take off Wednesday, 10 July 2019, due to a possible fuel leak in the right engine.
VA69, operated by VH-XFG, the daily A330-200 mid-morning departure from Melbourne to Hong Kong, turned around after white vapour was seen coming from the aircraft’s right Trent 772 engine.
Aero Inside reports that VA69 took off from Melbourne’s runway 34 and, shortly after, vapour was seen coming out from the engine. The aircraft kept climbing, levelled off at 30,000 feet over Swan Hill in central Victoria, where the pilot turned the aircraft around and headed back to Melbourne.
In an audio recording of the conversation between VA69’s pilot and Air Traffic Control in Melbourne, the pilot can be heard declaring a pan emergency. The audio recording can be heard here.
Landed safely and now back flying
The flight landed in Melbourne safely approximately 60 minutes after departure and was met by emergency services before being escorted to a stand. All passengers and crew safely disembarked. A Virgin Australia spokesperson told MSN News after the event that;
“In accordance with standard operating procedures, the Captain made the decision to return to Melbourne as a precautionary measure and our engineers are currently inspecting the aircraft”
VH-XFG was held on the ground throughout Wednesday pending inspection but a Virgin Australia spokesperson told Simply Flying that,
“We have inspected the aircraft and as the fuel issue has been resolved, it has safely returned to service this morning (Thursday). A formal investigation has commenced and we will work with the relevant authorities on this.”
VH-XFG returned to service on Thursday morning, operating VA679 across to Perth. The aircraft is currently operating VA552, the 05.45 departure from Perth across to Sydney, its fourth transcontinental trek since it resumed flying on Thursday morning.
It is scheduled to operate VA69 up to Hong Kong on Saturday morning.
Another issue for Virgin Australia
The cause of the vapour, if yet determined, has not been announced. An aircraft being forced to make an emergency landing is not that unusual. But it is an unfortunate event for Virgin Australia – or any airline. Virgin Australia is in the middle of a cost-overhaul program and doesn’t need any further bad news.
Its new Hong Kong services are struggling to compete against powerhouse incumbents Qantas and Cathay Pacific, although a recent agreement with Virgin Atlantic may take some pressure off Virgin’s performance on its Asian route.
There are again rumours swirling today in Australian frequent flyer forums that Virgin’s CEO is considering selling off the Velocity frequent flyer program. It would be a move many consider akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Wednesday’s emergency landing is an unfortunate event for Virgin Australia as it struggles to compete internationally and locally against a resurgent Qantas. Meanwhile, back in Melbourne, delayed VA69 passengers were re-accommodated on later flights to Hong Kong.