Hong Kong pilots under investigation for rough landing in Britain

( dpa ) - A pilot and co-pilot with Hong Kong airline Dragonair have been removed from flying duties after a Boeing 747-400 freighter plane damaged three of its four engines landing in Britain during high winds, the airline said Saturday.

The plane burst a tyre and its engines were badly damaged as it touched down at 1:27 am last Saturday on what was understood to have been a second attempt following one fly-around because of severe gusts.

An investigation has been launched into the accident which took place on a day of severe windstorms across Europe. In another near- accident incident, a Lufthansa passaenger plane scraped a runway in Hamburg before another fly-around.

Neither the captain nor the first officer on board the Dragonair jet was injured in the incident. The cowlings, or covers, of three of the Boeing's four engines were damaged.

The runway at Manchester airport was closed for almost an hour as debris from the accident was cleared away. The damage to the Boeing is expected to take weeks to repair.

A Dragonair spokeswoman stressed that the two pilots, understood to include a female captain, had not been formally suspended. She said it was "normal practice" for crew to be removed from duty after an accident to assist he investigation.

"Also, sometimes crew involved might experience stress from the incident and are in need of professional counselling prior to returning to flying duties," she said.

"Time is required to make a proper assessment. Depending on the situation, it may take up to two or even four weeks to complete the process."

The accident involved a flight from Dubai to Manchester operating on a Cathay Pacific freighter route wet-leased to Dragonair - meaning Cathay Pacific hired the plane and cockpit crew from Dragonair. Only the captain and co-pilot were on board the flight.The Dragonair spokeswoman said the airline was cooperating with British civil aviation officials as they investigated the accident. "As an investigation is under way, it would be premature to speculate over the cause," she said.

She added that Dragonair expected the aircraft, which is undergoing repairs in Manchester, to be back in service by the third week of March.

A senior pilot with Hong Kong's other main airline Cathay Pacific was sacked for swooping over a runway of a Boeing plant in Seattle on the maiden flight of a new Boeing 777 on January 31st.

The airline's chairman Christopher Pratt was sitting in a jump seat on the flight deck at the time of the incident, but did not realise the manoeuvre was unauthorized, the airline said.

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