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Ethiopian Airlines flight from Bangkok lands in super typhoon

Ethiopian Airlines defied unfavorable weather conditions to land their aircraft safely at Hong Kong International Airport, becoming the only flight to do so that evening.The arrival of the Ethiopian Boeing 787-9 garnered worldwide attention and became the most-tracked flight on at the time. While Ethiopian Airlines managed to land safely, numerous other airlines canceled their flights due to the strong storm and hazardous weather conditions in Hong Kong. On Friday, September 1st, an Ethiopian Airlinesaircraft took the daring decision to land at Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) despite the chaotic weather being experienced by the city. As such, the aircraft became the only one to land at the airport that evening.

The flight:

The flight in question is ET-608, an Ethiopian Airlines service that operates from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to Hong Kong via Bangkok. The airline has fifth-freedom rights to operate between Bangkok and Hong Kong and operates this route with a thrice-weekly frequency on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

On the day in question, the weather was completely unfavorable for aircraft operations due to Super Typhoon Saola, which recorded maximum winds of 210 km/h (130 mph). Reports from Bloomberg indicate Hong Kong’s flag carrier, Cathay Pacific, suspended operations from 14:00 on Friday until 10:00 on Saturday morning.

Thus, the arrival of an Ethiopian Boeing 787-9 at the airport made it all the more interesting for onlookers and viewers around the world on flight tracking apps.

At the time, the aircraft (ET-AXK) became the most tracked flight worldwide on, with over 6,400 people tracking the aircraft’s approach into Hong Kong.

Tricky arrival:

The aircraft landed in Hong Kong safely at around 17:06, which was three hours after the previous passenger aircraft arrived in the city. Reports suggest that the weather at the time would have proved challenging for the aircraft, considering the highly wet runway, paired with moderate turbulence and significant wind shear detected.

Data from the airport weather information system suggests that the crosswind experienced by the aircraft during the landing phase was around 32 knots. This in itself is interesting because sources such as CRAM state that the crosswind demonstrated limit set by Boeing for a 787 landing is 33 knots and a limit of 35 knots for crosswind take-off. This suggests that while on the edge of the operational limit, the pilot has not exceeded any aircraft limitations when landing the aircraft in this situation.

Massive cancellations:

While Ethiopian Airlines managed to land the aircraft safely, several other operators canceled their flights into Hong Kong. The storm is recorded to be the strongest to hit the city in the past five years, and the weather conditions not only halted flight operations but also most public transport operations across the city.

Even before the storm hit the city, over 30 flights had been canceled by Hong Kong Airlines. Furthermore, based on the forecast, Cathay Pacific had already planned to suspend operations as it did on Friday afternoon. However, the airline has advised that there could potentially be further disruptions on Saturday based on the weather.

However, the operational disruption is widespread and affects International airlines that operate to Hong Kong as well. In all, around 460 flights were canceled on Friday, and airlines such as Emirates and Singapore Airlines, which deploy the Airbus A380 to Hong Kong, had canceled their flights as well.



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