Vietnam Airlines

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Boeing 787 in Vietnam Airlines livery

Vietnam Airlines is the national flag carrier for Vietnam, and was established as a state enterprise in April 1989. Vietnam Airlines Corporation was subsequently formed in 1996, after bringing together several service companies. The company is overseen by seven-seat management board, members of which are appointed by the prime minister. Vietnam Airlines used to the major stakeholder in Vietnam's second carrier, Pacific Airlines but its share has recently been transfered to the Ministry of Finance.


Code Data

  • IATA Code: VN
  • ICAO Code: HVN
  • Callsign: Vietnam Airlines


The airline serves 16 domestic locations and 24 major international cities, including codeshare agreements:

Vietnam Airlines will commence a nonstop service to Frankfurt in June 2005. The current flight involve a stop at Moscow. Vietnam Airlines will begin service to the United States in early 2006. San Francisco is rumoured to be the first destination although Los Angeles is also being looked at, supposedly because of the large Vietnamese community in Orange County.


The Vietnam Airlines jet fleet consists of the following aircraft (at May 2005):

The airline has ordered 4 Boeing 787 aircraft to be delivered in 2010 and 10 Airbus A321-200 for deliveries starting from 2006. It plans to use them to expand the route network and replace some of the aircraft currently on lease in the fleet (ref: Airliner World, March 2005). It also signed an agreement with ILFC for the leasing of 2 additional Extended Range Boeing 777-200 aircraft for delivery in June and October 2005.


Vietnam Airlines experienced three fatal mishaps in the last 10 years. All fatal accidents have involved Russian-made aircraft, which have since all been phased out. There have been several non-fatal Tupolev Tu-134 mishaps, in which the aircraft crashed during landing, and at least two fatal Yakovlev Yak-40 crashes. Most of these mishaps occurred on final approach or landing, when weather was a factor. All three fatal crashes occurred in heavy rain.

Near misses occur periodically, but this is primarily due to the fact that Vietnamese air space and civil aviation is constantly growing and adjusting to modern times, creating a technological gap, for which air traffic controllers attempt to compensate.

In the following incidents, pilot error during approach or landing was deemed to be the primary cause of the mishap. "Old school" type thinking is reported to have been a major factor in many cases in which pilots displayed "psychological uneasiness to abort the landing."

Fatal Mishaps

3 September 1997: A Vietnam Airlines Tupolev Tu-134 (built in 1984) crashed on approach to Phnom Penh’s Pochentong Airport, killing 65 of the 66 passengers on board. The aircraft was entirely destroyed. The aircraft was flying from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh. The Tupolev was approaching the Phnom Penh airport runway in heavy rain from 2,000 meters; at this point the control tower ordered the pilot to attempt an approach from the west due to a wind pick-up. The crew then lost communication with the tower, and three minutes later the aircraft collided at low level with trees, damaging the left wing. The aircraft then slid 200 yards into a dry rice paddy before exploding. Pilot error was later identified as the cause of the crash; the pilot continued his landing descent from an altitude of 2,000 meters to 30 meters even though the runway was not in sight, and ignored pleas from his first officer and flight engineer to turn back. When the aircraft hit the trees, the pilot finally realized the runway was not in sight and tried to abort the approach; the flight engineer pushed for full power, but the aircraft lost control and veered left; the right engine then stalled, making it impossible to gain lift.

14 November 1992: A Yakovlev Yak-40 (built in 1976) originating in Ho Chi Minh City with 31 passengers on board crashed while approaching the Nha-trang Airport in Vietnam in a tropical storm. There were 29 deaths. The aircraft was entirely destroyed.

10 September 1988: A Tupolev Tu-134 departed from Hanoi with 81 passengers aboard and crashed while on approach to Bangkok. There were 76 fatalities and the aircraft was entirely destroyed. The aircraft apparently flew into a heavy thunderstorm and was struck by lightning. The aircraft then exploded after it crashed into a field 4 mi/6 km short of Don Muang International Airport.

Non-Fatal Mishaps

29 October 2004: The nose gear of an Airbus A321 failed to deploy prior to landing at Hanoi. The aircraft declared an emergency and landed without the nose gear on a runway lined with foam. There were no reported injuries.

22 August 2002: An Airbus A320 was forced to make an emergency landing after a bird struck the cockpit window. The mishap occurred shortly after takeoff, and the aircraft was able to safely make an emergency landing at Ho Chi Minh City airport. Passengers were delayed approximately one hour while another aircraft was brought in.

19 July 2002: An Airbus A320, en route from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City, aborted landing after a tire burst while the aircraft was taxiing out to the runway. No injuries were reported.

12 September 1998: A Boeing 767 skidded off the runway during takeoff at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City after the pilot lost directional control of the aircraft. Passengers had to evacuate via emergency chutes. Authorities have been unable to determine the cause of this incident. Several passengers claimed that they saw sparks coming from the engine as it was taxiing down the runway.

16 November 1996: A Vietnam Airlines Tupolev Tu-134 crashed at Da Nang, Vietnam. The aircraft veered onto the left runway when its landing gear collapsed upon landing.

23 December 1994: A Yakovlev Yak-40 skidded off the runway in bad weather and low visibility at Lien Khoung Airport in the town of Dalat; only one of its 18 passengers was hurt. The flight originated from Ho Chi Minh City.

25 November 1994: A Tupolev Tu-134 with 40 passengers crashed on landing at Phnom Penh, Cambodia, when its landing gear collapsed. There were no casualties but the aircraft suffered major damage.

1 December 1991: A Tupolev Tu-134 with 76 passengers on board crashed on final approach to Ho Chi Minh City. At 30 feet the Tupolev suddenly lost height and landed hard, touching down with the left main gear first. There were no casualties but the aircraft was entirely destroyed.


Vietnam Airlines has reported five hijackings in its history. Four of these occurred in the 1970s during the war; the other occurred in 1992.

Vietnam Airlines has an in-house security department headed by a Director. All of the airline's ground security within Vietnam falls under the auspices of this department, including searching all aircraft before and after flights, as well as interviewing, searching, and validating the identity of passengers. The security department also handles coordination with local airport security at the carrier's international destinations, as well as liaising with national and local security forces.

Vietnam Airlines announced a series of measures to step up security in airports and on board aircraft following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, including:

  • New locking systems on all its aircraft to allow the cockpit to be insulated from the passenger cabin throughout flights.
  • Additional security personnel at airports and more passenger checks.
  • New X-ray machines and other screening equipment.


4 September 1992: A former pilot in the South Vietnamese air force hijacked an Airbus A.310-300 with 167 occupants on board en route from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City. He then dropped anti-communist leaflets over Ho Chi Minh City before parachuting out. Vietnamese security forces later arrested him on the ground. The aircraft landed safely and no one on board was injured. (The hijacker was released from a Hanoi prison in 1998.)

28 October 1977: Four armed Vietnamese hijackers seeking asylum in Singapore seized a DC-3 en route from Ho Chi Minh City to Phu Quoc Island with 32 passengers on board. Two of the six crewmembers were killed and a third was wounded before the aircraft was forced to land in Singapore. The hijackers surrendered after negotiating with Singapore officials for five hours.

15 September 1974: A man hijacked a Boeing 727 en route from Da Nang to Saigon and demanded to go to Hanoi. He detonated two hand grenades, and the aircraft crashed at Phan Rang when it overshot the runway on an attempted landing. All 70 people on board were killed.

20 February 1974: A DC-4 was hijacked en route from Da Lat to Da Nang. The hijacker was a 19-year-old South Vietnamese man demanding to go to North Vietnam. When the aircraft landed at Hue, the hijacker realized he had been tricked and detonated a grenade, killing himself and two police officers.

22 July 1970: A U.S. Army private hijacked a DC-4 en route from Pleiku to Saigon. He was detained in Saigon after attempting to force the pilot to take him to Hong Kong. There were no fatalities.


According to the Director General of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, a trade association of Asian-based airlines, Vietnam’s aviation industry lacks experience in the realm of pilot and crew training. However, Vietnam Airlines is effecting continual improvements in this field. Vietnam Airlines undertook plans to train 400 pilots shortly after the start of the year 2000.

Transportation of dangerous goods, cabin crew training, CRM (crew resource management) and pilot training are all safety-enhancing programs taught to airline personnel. New Vietnamese pilots are primarily assigned as Western-type aircraft co-pilots and receive the aircraft manufacturer’s initial ground and simulator training, and biannual recurrent training at Ansett Airlines in Australia. All pilots – both national and foreign – receive biannual simulator training and periodic line checks by western pilots. A Hanoi-based Airbus cabin mock-up is specifically used for smoke and evacuation training.

Most ATR captains and co-pilots are Vietnamese. Airbus captains are approximately one-third foreign and two-thirds Vietnamese citizens. However, by the end of 1998, all Airbus captains were Vietnamese citizens but the instructors and check pilots remain expatriates. All Fokker flight crews are Vietnamese, but instructors and check pilots are expatriates. Most Boeing flight crews are foreigners but now some Vietnamese are generally being trained and assigned as co-pilots. Only Western flight crews fly charter operations into unfamiliar airports.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam signed a contract with Socfreavia of France to set up a pilot training school in the central province of Phu Yen in late 1998. Only 40 percent of Vietnam Airlines’ Boeing aircraft are captained by Vietnamese citizens, all of whom are required to attend training programs abroad. Many pilots have received training at the Hawker de Havilland’s Australian Aviation College in Adelaide, Australia.


Scheduled maintenance intervals are relatively conservative and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Major engine and propeller maintenance is contracted to qualified overseas maintenance facilities, although a shift to performing more maintenance in-house is currently taking place. There have been no serious maintenance discrepancies with Vietnam Airlines in its history.

As of 1 July 1998, Vietnam Airlines began conducting its own aircraft repair and maintenance. Vietnamese technicians have since conducted repairs and maintenance of Airbus A320, ATR72 and Fokker aircraft, and began maintenance checks on Boeing aircraft in 1999. The transfer of maintenance and repair work from Airbus to Vietnam Airlines is projected to save the airline US$20 million a year. In August 1998, 15 technicians from the flag carrier took a course on aircraft maintenance and repair at the Boeing Center in Seattle. Vietnam Airlines sent all 45 technicians in mechanical engineering and wireless transmission to Boeing for the course, which ended in 1999. Trainees were issued certificates, which are recognized by Vietnam’s Civil Aviation Authority. In addition, in June 1998, Boeing signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Vietnam Airlines stating that it would, at its own cost, assist Vietnam Airlines in a maintenance and engineering support program to upgrade the aircraft maintenance center at Tan Son Nhat Airport, so that it can become a full capability maintenance center for Boeing 767 aircraft.

In conjunction with other investors, in April 1998, Vietnam Airlines stated it would invest US$1 million to develop an aircraft tire and brake maintenance workshop at the Ho Chi Minh City-based Aircraft Enterprise A75, with the assistance of Japan Airlines. Upon completion, the hangar facility will have a US$16 million tire/wheel/brake overhaul facility and a US$12 million avionics test and repair facility.

Region Air of Singapore and Park Aviation of Ireland provide technical and maintenance assistance to Vietnam Airlines.

There are no production facilities in Vietnam for aircraft and aircraft parts. Boeing has managed to obtain 35 percent of the distribution market in Vietnam, and General Electric in turn supplies jet engines for the Boeing aircraft.

In addition to its self-maintenance facilities, Vietnam Airlines also has maintenance contracts with Air France, AMECO of China, China Airlines, Evergreen Aviation Technologies, GAMECO, Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Co, Lufthansa AERO, MTU Maintenance Hanover, Royal Brunei Airlines, Safe Air of New Zealand, and TAT Industries of France.

Financial Standing

Vietnam Airlines is owned by the government of Vietnam. The carrier has two wholly owned subsidiaries (Vietnam Air Service and Vietnam Airlines Express), and holds a 60% stake in Pacific Airlines.

Vietnam Airlines enjoyed good growth and an average 37 percent increase in passengers flown per year until 1997, when the Southeast Asian economic crisis and other contributing factors led to a loss in profits for the airline. Nevertheless, the airline remained profitable through the crisis. In 1996 and 1997, the airline posted profits exceeding US$100 million each year. In 1998, the airline saw its profit shrink to approximately US$7 million. Profits increased to US$59 million in 1999. Following the September 2001 attacks on the United States, at a time when many airlines were struggling, Vietnam Airlines saw a jump in passenger revenues. The airline carried more than 4 million passengers in 2002, which is an 18 percent rise over the previous year. Its cargo traffic also rose 20 percent in the same period, resulting in a 2002 profit of US$35.77 million. Despite the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak, the airline posted a US$26.2 million profit for 2003. Vietnam Airlines is enjoying its current financial situation and is planning to increase its fleet size and destinations in the coming years.

Vietnam Airlines holds 40 percent of the market share of international tourists flying to and from Vietnam. This is significant because Vietnam Airlines receives two-thirds of its profits from international passengers. Foreigners are generally charged more than double and thus effectively subsidize Vietnam Airline’s domestic services.


Overall, Vietnam Airlines is an adequate carrier. It operates a mixed fleet of modem Western-built and aging Russian-built aircraft, the oldest of which is 39 years of age. It experienced three fatal mishaps over the past 15 years. Nevertheless, it should be noted that all three fatal mishaps involved Russian-built aircraft and occurred in heavy rain. All of Vietnam Airlines' Russian-built passenger aircraft have been phased out of operation. No unusual practices have been reported in connection to either its pilot training or maintenance programs. Vietnam Airlines appears financially stable and profitable.

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