Air China Flight 129

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Air China Flight 129
The aircraft involved in the accident at Charles de Gaulle Airport in 1997
Accident summary
Date April 15, 2002 (2002-04-15)
Summary Controlled flight into terrain
due to ATC error and pilot error
Site Busan, South Korea[1]
Coordinates: 35°13′58″N 128°55′41″E / 35.2327°N 128.9280°E / 35.2327; 128.9280
Passengers 155
Crew 11
Fatalities 129
Survivors 37
Aircraft type Boeing 767-2J6ER
Operator Air China
Registration B-2552
Flight origin Beijing International Airport
Destination Gimhae International Airport

Air China Flight 129 (CCA129, CA129) was a flight from Beijing Capital International Airport, Beijing, People's Republic of China to Gimhae International Airport, Busan, South Korea. On April 15, 2002, the jet on this route, a Boeing 767-200ER, crashed into a hill near Busan, killing 129 of 166 on board. CA129, Air China's first aircraft accident,[2] is currently recorded as the deadliest aviation accident in South Korea. It was also the third-deadliest crash of a Boeing 767, after EgyptAir Flight 990 and Lauda Air Flight 004.


Seating plan

The flight took off at 08:37 local time (0037 UTC). After nearly 2 hours in flight, it arrived near Gimhae airport in light rain and mist. At 11:20 local time (0220UTC), CA129 received clearance to land at runway 36L from Gimhae tower, but the aircraft circled the runway again after a missed approach due to low visibility. After an attempt to circle to land on runway 18R (the same runway from the opposite direction), the crew concentrated too much[citation needed] on the weather and ATC communications while going below the minimum safe altitude (MSA), and crashed into a hill at 11:40 local time (0240UTC). The aircraft broke into parts and caught fire. 37 survived, including the captain.


The aircraft, delivered in 1985, was Line No. 127. It was previously operated by CAAC and then transferred to Air China after CAAC's split. It had accumulated around 39,541 hours of flying and 14,308 landings.[3]

Crew members[edit]

  • Flight Crew:
    • Captain: Wu Xinlu (S: 吴新禄, T: 吳新祿, P: Wú Xīnlù), 6000 hours on Boeing 767, 5 times to Busan, received captain's license on 23 November 2001;
    • First Officer: Gao Lijie (S: 高立杰, T: 高立傑, P: Gāo Lìjié)(He was a member of CFSO);
    • First Officer: Hou Xiangning (S: 侯向宁, T: 侯向寧, P: Hóu Xiàngníng);
  • Flight Attendants:
    • Ye Hongxia (S: 叶红霞, T: 葉紅霞, P: Yè Hóngxiá), Wang Ze (S: 王泽, T: 王澤, P: Wáng Zé), Zhang Wanhua (S: 张婉华, T: 張婉華, P: Zhāng Wǎnhuá), He Zhen (S: 贺珍, T: 賀珍, P: Hè Zhēn), Xu Liya (S: 许丽雅, T: 許麗雅, P: Xǔ Líyǎ), Du Dazheng (杜大正 Dù Dàzhèng), Luo Rui (S: 罗睿, T: 羅睿, P: Luó Ruì) and Sun Jiayue (S: 孙嘉悦, T: 孫嘉悅, P: Sūn Jiāyuè).

The captain and two of the flight attendants survived, while the copilots and the rest of the flight attendants died.[4]

The first officer of CA129, Gao Lijie, was an admired member of CFSO (China Flight Simulator Organization), whose callsign was CFSO009.


Nationality Passengers Crew Total
 China 19 11 30
 South Korea 135 0 135
 Uzbekistan 1 0 1
Total 155 11 166

Among the 155 passengers, 135 were from South Korea, 19 were from China, and one was from Uzbekistan.[5]


Weather at the time of crash was poor.

The ATIS string for Busan Gimhae airport was: 0200Z Oscar 230/6KT Vis 2 mi RAFG 3/8-005 6/8-010 8/8-025 16/13 A3000 Active Rwy 36L Info 36R/18L used as twy end of Oscar.

Accident report[edit]

The official accident report by the Korea Aviation Accident Investigation Board was released in May 2005. The Probable Cause read:

  1. The flight crew of flight 129 performed the circling approach, not being aware of the weather minima of wide-body aircraft (B767-200) for landing, and in the approach briefing, did not include the missed approach, etc., among the items specified in Air China’s operations and training manuals.
  2. The flight crew exercised poor crew resource management and lost situational awareness during the circling approach to runway 18R, which led them to fly outside of the circling approach area, delaying the base turn, contrary to the captain’s intention to make a timely base turn.
  3. The flight crew did not execute a missed approach when they lost sight of the runway during the circling approach to runway 18R, which led them to strike high terrain (mountain) near the airport.
  4. When the first officer advised the captain to ascend again for landing, about 5 seconds before impact, the captain did not react, nor did the first officer initiate the missed approach himself.

During the accident flight the airline made the pre-flight safety demonstration and announcements in Chinese and English, but not in Korean, while 135 of 155 of the passengers were Korean. The Korean investigation board recommended that Air China begin announcements in Korean on flights to and from South Korea.[6]

Other than the report released by the Korean Aviation Accident Investigation Board, Liu Yajun, the head of the Chinese investigation team, stated,[7]

  1. ATC official in the airport, Park Junyong, did not own a license for air traffic control issued by the South Korean Construction and Transportation Ministry.
  2. Park did not know the property of the aircraft, a Boeing 767, and mistakenly directed the airliner to descend to an altitude of 700 feet (213.5m) instead of 1,100 feet (335.5m).
  3. The airport did not inform the crew of the weather conditions at the time. Eight flights before CA129 were directed to land at other airports because of bad weather.
  4. There were also problems with the radar system and lighting at Gimhae Airport.

Flight number[edit]

Air China kept the flight route designator for its Beijing - Busan route after this incident. Two days after the accident, another 767 served as flight 129 and safely carried 106 passengers from Beijing to Busan, although the flight was delayed for 10 hours and 10 minutes due to bad weather. Although Air China runs a Boeing 737-800 on this route now, the flight route designator remains flight 129.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Official Aircraft Accident Report, Korea Aviation Accident Investigation Board, 2005, KAIB/AAR F0201 
  2. ^ "Chinese jet hits foggy mountain." TVNZ. Monday April 15, 2002. Retrieved on October 25, 2010.
  3. ^ "Air China 767 Statement." Boeing. April 14, 2002. Retrieved on June 10, 2009.
  4. ^ "KAIB/AAR F0201." Korea Aviation Accident Investigation Board. 1 (15/168). Retrieved on June 18, 2009.
  5. ^ Grace, Francie. "Search Continues At Korean Crash Site" (Archive). CBS News. April 15, 2002. Retrieved on February 18, 2009.
  6. ^ "KAIB/AAR F0201." Korea Aviation Accident Investigation Board. 138 (152/168). Retrieved on June 18, 2009.
  7. ^ "South Korean Airport has Responsibility for Air China Crash". Xinhua. November 27, 2002. Retrieved on July 30, 2011.

External links[edit]

External images
Photos of B-2552 at