Vietnam Airlines In Swirl of Missteps

Chief government inspector Quach Le Thanh told lawmakers at Vietnam's National Assembly on Thursday that investigators are examining a host of problems with Vietnam Airlines including company finances, engine purchases, aircraft leasing and pilot actions. Pilots of a Vietnam Airlines Boeing 777 flying from Hanoi, Vietnam to Frankfurt, Germany on April 17, for example, did not communicate with air traffic control for 65 minutes while flying over Eastern Europe. Finally, the Czech air force sent a jet to flank the plane, which had 200 passengers onboard, and ordered it to land. Only after seeing the military aircraft did the pilots turn on the communications system and make contact with ground control. The plane reached its destination safely. The pilots have since been retrained and an airline source confirmed they are back on the job. In addition, the co-pilot of another Boeing 777 was arrested in early June in Sydney, Australia, for failing to declare $500,000 in cash he was carrying back to Vietnam. The airline also has been fined $6.5 million after losing a lawsuit from an Italian lawyer who claimed the carried didn't pay his legal fees on a contract more than a decade ago. And finally, on Wednesday, Vietnam Airlines chief Nguyen Xuan Hien denied the airline purchased the "wrong engines" for its Boeing 777s. The airline bought its first four Boeing 777s in 2002, but it opted for Pratt & Whitney engines to power them; those engines were designed for short and medium distances. Most airlines use long-haul engines designed by General Electric or Rolls Royce for 777 service.