A Chinese pilot received a handsome reward on Thursday for saving the lives of 439 people after successfully preventing a collision between two planes last month.
China Eastern Airlines rewarded Captain He Chao with 3 million yuan ($443,000) for his heroics at Shanghai airport on Oct. 11. The cabin crew was also given a reward of 600,000 yuan, or $88,500.
According to People’s Daily Online, the pilot’s Airbus A320 was about to take off from the runway when it encountered an Airbus A330 ahead right in its path. Thinking quickly, Chao decided to accelerate and fly over the other aircraft to avoid a head-on crash by a hairline, with a margin of just 62 feet.
An investigation eventually revealed that the error was made by air traffic control. According to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), the control center and the A330 cabin crew members failed to maintain proper communication, suggesting that the controller should be held accountable.
The administrative body also released a simulation of the incident which showed the A320 speeding up on the runway after the heroic Chinese pilot spotted the A330 approaching just a short distance away, Daily Mail reported. According to a statement on China Eastern Airlines’ website, the A320 was already travelling at around 149 mph at the time. Chao then accelerated his plane and made a sharp climb, narrowly missing the other plane.
The incident sparked a widespread discussion on Chinese media with many comparing it to the Tenerife airport disaster in 1977, a runway crash between two Boeing 747s that killed 583 people.
The Airbus A330 had just arrived from Beijing to Shanghai, carrying 266 passengers, while the Airbus A320, which carried 147 passengers, was taking off from Shanghai for Tianjin. China Eastern Airlines owned both aircraft.
It was fortunate the quick-thinking Chinese pilot prevented a fatal accident that could have claimed a lot of lives, prompting the airline to reward him accordingly.