Chinese Passenger Plane Forced To Delay Landing As Air Traffic Controllers Doze Off

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Wuhan Airport in China
An airport worker sprays de-icing solution on a Boeing 737 airplane of China Southern Airlines at an airport in Wuhan, Hubei province on Feb. 18, 2014.

A Chinese plane had to delay its landing after air traffic controllers guiding the plane to its destination airport fell asleep, according to a report Tuesday. The incident, which occurred in July but has only now come to light, triggered strong responses on social media about air-travel safety.

Flight MU2528 of China Eastern Airlines Corp. (NYSE:CEA) had to postpone landing at the Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in southeastern China on July 8 because its pilots could not contact the airport's control tower for 12 minutes, despite several attempts, according to Agence France-Presse, or AFP. The Boeing 737 aircraft was travelling from Sanya, near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, to Wuhan.

"Because air traffic control was asleep on duty, (the plane) called many times," civil aviation authorities said in a statement, according to AFP, which cited Caijing, a local magazine, adding: "But there was no reply, and no contact could be made with the control tower."

The incident reportedly occurred on July 8 but the statement cited by Caijing was reportedly dated July 29, and it was not clear why there was a delay in making the information public, according to AFP.

"Air control work is truly exhausting, but it is unforgivable to sleep on duty," a post on Sina (NASDAQ:SINA) Weibo, China’s social networking site that is similar to Twitter Inc. (NYSE:TWTR), said, according to AFP, adding: "Hundreds of people’s lives depend on the actions of flight tower controllers. We entrust our lives to you.”

Last week, it was reported that a Jet Airways flight from Mumbai to Brussels had dropped 5,000 feet because the pilot dozed off at the controls while the co-pilot was busy on her tablet and did not notice the drop, The Times of India, a local newspaper, had reported.

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