A tyre exploded and flew off an aircraft tug on Tuesday as the machine was pulling a plane at Hong Kong airport, endangering workers nearby, it has emerged.
At least one worker was driving the tug and two “wing walkers” were standing either side of the Hong Kong Airlines plane when the explosion took place. It happened only seconds after the aircraft began pushing back from the departure gate for its flight to Seoul.
Closed-circuit television footage shows the tyre and an unidentified piece of the wheel separating, and pressurised air shooting out. The video appears to suggest the tyre had been incorrectly pressurised.
The tyre shoots off at high speed and ends up about 10 metres away under an airport jet bridge, which passengers use to enter and exit planes. The unidentified piece flies out of shot in the footage.
No one was hurt in the incident, the Airport Authority said.
Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho, a pilot and aviation expert, said it was lucky no one had been hurt.
“You can see that the tyre exploded in the direction of mechanics and ground staff. It is normal procedure for workers to follow [a tug] and stand nearby to make sure the plane has enough ground clearance [from other aircraft and vehicles].
“If a worker had been hit by the tyre, he would have been in hospital for a very long time.”
A spokeswoman for the Airport Authority said: “When Hong Kong Airlines passenger flight HX628 was leaving the parking stand, the right front tyre on the towing tractor burst.
“The line maintenance operator immediately towed the tractor for maintenance ... No one was injured. Airport operations were unaffected.”
The authority did not say whether an investigation would take place.
The tug is owned by Pan Asia Pacific Aviation Services (PAPAS), a ground handling and maintenance services company contracted to operate at Hong Kong International Airport. The company is a joint venture between Hong Kong Airlines, SIA Engineering Company, Malaysia Airlines, Garuda Indonesia and Royal Brunei.
PAPAS could not be reached on Wednesday evening.
Hong Kong Airlines said in a statement that its engineering team conducted checks to ensure there was no damage to the aircraft.
Flight HX628 left the gate at 10.42am and took off at 10.58am, later than the original 10am departure time. But the flight landed at 2.48pm, ahead of the 2.55pm scheduled arrival.