Damage to cargo plane that shut Hong Kong airport runway more extensive than first reported

Hong Kong’s Airport Authority has revealed further information about what forced one of its runways to close for eight hours earlier this week, saying a 300-tonne cargo plane suffered “extensive damage” to its tyres and significant hydraulic leakage that complicated efforts to move the aircraft.

The authority, which runs the airport, said on Thursday that the B747-400 plane operated by Atlas Air burst two tyres upon making an emergency landing and sustained damage to the wheel rims, rendering it immobile on the north runway on Monday morning.

“Multiple airfield ground light fittings and runway pavement surfaces” were also damaged, necessitating emergency repairs, it said.

The runway was closed while workers attempted to lift the aircraft, still carrying its cargo, so the tyres could be changed, the authority added.

“Significant hydraulic leakage from the aircraft body and extensive damage of the tyres and wheel rims had complicated the lifting process, resulting in a longer processing time for tyre replacement,” it said.

The runway resumed operation after the aircraft was towed away at 3.45pm, more than eight hours later. During that time, the airport was left with only one functioning runway, resulting in delays to about 450 flights.

Hundreds of flights were delayed at Hong Kong airport on Monday. Photo: Jelly Tse

The authority stressed the time needed to move an immobilised aircraft varied, noting a similar incident happened at “another major airport” this month, reportedly forcing the closure of a runway for more than 11 hours. But it stopped short of identifying the facility.

South Korea media reported that a cargo plane damaged its tyres while landing at Incheon International Airport, forcing a runway to close. It also cited an airport official as saying the suspension caused delays for “some departing flights” for up to two hours.

The authority added it would follow established procedures and conduct an incident review by meeting the airline, engineering maintenance and ground handling companies.

“The Airport Authority will review the whole handling process and strive for faster recovery in future incidents,” it said.

It expected to complete a report within one month and submit it to the Civil Aviation Department.

The burst tyres caused delays to about 450 of the 932 flights operating between 7am and midnight on Monday. None of the five crew members on the freighter were injured, the authority said.

The authority implemented multiple measures to deal with the logjam, such as extending the opening hours of customer service counters and increasing the number of baggage handlers to deal with delayed arrivals.

The authority said it had completed channelling all delayed departures and arrivals by 4am on Tuesday, and operations had returned to normal.

The north runway, the airport’s newest, went into operation in 2022. It is part of the airport’s three-runway expansion project that started in 2016. One of the runways is undergoing modification and will reopen this year.



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