A Vietnam Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner was forced to divert to Fukuoka yesterday. The flight from Tokyo to Hanoi was reportedly hijacked after a threat to shoot down the plane was made via a phone call to the airline’s Japanese office. Fortunately, the plane landed without further incident despite the threat.
Although terrorist threats against aircraft are rare, each should be taken extremely seriously. Fortunately, most threats turn out to be hoaxes, but when they do materialize, the implications can be catastrophic for the industry.
Vietnam Airlines 787 hijacked
Yesterday, a Vietnam Airlines Boeing 787-9 took off from Tokyo five minutes earlier than scheduled and flew over Tokyo Bay soon after, according to data from RadarBox.com. According to NV ExpressVietnam Airlines’ Japanese office received a threatening phone call about 40 minutes into the flight, long after it had passed Tokyo Bay.
According to the publication, the caller threatened,
“Flight VN5311 better turn back to Narita or it will be shot down passing Tokyo Bay. I’m preparing to shoot VN5311 when it flies over Tokyo Bay. It better turn back.”
Through coordination with the airline’s head office, the Vietnamese civil aviation authority and its Japanese counterpart, it was decided that the plane would divert to a nearby airport as a precaution. As a result, the plane landed in Fukuoka at 1:05 p.m., after about two and a half hours in the sky. Since the incident, the aircraft has been returned to service.
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Vietnam Airlines and the Boeing 787
The aircraft involved in the incident was VN-A868. According to ch-aviation.com, the plane is 5.43 years old. It first flew on August 2, 2016 and was delivered on October 4. ch-aviation lists the aircraft’s current value at $81.99 million.
The aircraft has 274 seats on board, split between economy (211), premium economy (35) and business (28). According to VN Express, only 47 passengers were on board, representing a load factor of 17%. They were accompanied by 12 flight attendants and three pilots.
VN-A868 is one of 11 Boeing 787-9s in Vietnam Airlines’ fleet, all listed as active. The airline has four more -10 Dreamliners, and four more will be delivered by Boeing once deliveries resume. This will give a total fleet of 19 Dreamliners once deliveries are complete.
The airline also uses the Airbus A350 for widebody operations, although its fleet is slightly smaller than its Boeing counterpart. Vietnam Airlines has taken delivery of 14 Airbus A350-900s. only nine of them are currently listed as active.
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