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Air China plane ‘flew off in wrong direction’ after take-off

An airliner flew off in the wrong direction after taking off from an airport in southwest China and had to be directed back on track by air traffic controllers, according to a news website report.

The Air China aircraft had left Chengdu airport in Sichuan province on Sunday morning heading for Lhasa in Tibet, but immediately deviated off course, according to Thepaper.cn.

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Air traffic controllers had given the crew a flight route, but the plane headed in the opposite direction, according to the report.

The pilot of flight CA4401 then realised the mistake and contacted the air traffic control centre who rescheduled the aircraft’s route.

The report did not say how long it took for the pilot to realise an error had been made.

The online flight tracking service Flightradar24 also noticed the flight path had deviated from its normal course.

Air China issued a warning to its pilots after the incident asking them to stay alert and strengthen checks during flights, the report said.

“The aircrew must always be aware of flight safety and avoid making mistakes on the route or when entering and departing from the airport,” the report quoted the airline statement as saying. “We must ensure safety as the year end approaches.”

The report said planes flying off a designated flight route can be extremely dangerous, sometimes causing accidents.

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The incident comes after air traffic controllers at Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport instructed a China Eastern Airlines plane to take off as another jet was taxiing across its path last week.

The error almost caused the two planes to collide, according to the civil aviation authority.

Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport is the fourth busiest in the mainland, ranking behind hubs in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, according to the report.