A decade after evacuating Vietnamese workers from Libya: Each flight is a miracle hinh anh 1Vietnamese workers returning from Libya at Noi Bai airport (Photo: Vietnamplus

Hanoi (VNA) –Vietnam Airlines had to fly through the airspace of 15 countries it had never flown to before to safely return thousands of Vietnamese workers from Libya.

In just a short time, it successfully carried out ten flights, bringing home over 3,000 Vietnamese from war zones to reunite with their families as well as nearly 13.6 tonnes of cargo, contributing to the overall success of the campaign to return all Vietnamese citizens from Libya.

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the successful completion of the evacuation campaign (March 1-13, 2011), Nguyen Hong Linh, captain of advance flight No VN6568 on March 1, shared his experience with reporters from the Vietnam News Agency.

Flying through 15 new airspaces

- How did Vietnam Airlines prepare for the rescue operation?

Nguyen Hong Linh: After the Prime Minister’s direction on bringing Vietnamese workers home from Libya, all of Vietnam Airlines’ operations were quickly deployed. We coordinated closely with relevant agencies to prepare the flights, created working groups managed by Vietnam Airlines’ Deputy General Directors, and established three departure mission groups, including officers who had travelled to North African countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria.

Vietnam Airlines decided to conduct the first flight to Cairo, Egypt. At that time, the political situation in the country was unstable with several coups and widespread protests.

Tunisia’s Djerba Airport was selected as a station for the Vietnam Airlines’ working group and the main pick-up point for the carrier to bring Vietnamese citizens home. Flights to rescue citizens began on March 1, 2011.

Amid the complexity of the widespread civil wars in North Africa and the Middle East, and with no direct flights to Libya, Vietnam Airlines had to fly through the airspace of 15 countries it had never flown to before. At that time, procedures for gaining permission to take off and land as well as technical conditions, airport capacity, and other matters were complicated and unpredictable.

As the people making the advance flight, you and your colleagues must have encountered many difficulties?

Nguyen Hong Linh: Fortunately, my colleagues were all long-haul pilots with a lot of experience flying new routes. I had made hundreds of special flights taking Party and State leaders on official trips, many of which were on routes and destinations not flown to previously. Being experienced as a trained pilot was an advantage for my colleagues and I to successfully carry out the advanced flight to Cairo carrying more than 9 tons of relief goods (mainly food and foodstuffs, etc.), and delegations from the State and Vietnam Airlines.

A decade after evacuating Vietnamese workers from Libya: Each flight is a miracle hinh anh 2Nguyen Hong Linh - Captain of Flight VN6568 (Photo: Vietnamplus)

- Looking back 10 years ago to this large-scale campaign, how do you evaluate the cooperation between Vietnam Airlines and State agencies in bringing citizens home quickly?

Nguyen Hong Linh: Each successful rescue operation was a victory for all and the result of directions from the Government and the effort and enthusiasm of many people, agencies, and departments at home and abroad.

At Vietnam Airlines, we have overcome many difficulties and challenges, pioneering flight to all continents, from the battlefields of Libya and Egypt to European volcanic dust, riots in Thailand, and tsunamis in Japan, and conducting hundreds of flights to bring people back to their motherland during the COVID-19 pandemic.

From rescue flights to flights serving security and defence missions, we and the Vietnam Airlines team feel proud to build an image of a strong, dynamic, creative, and humane national carrier, and are determined to devote ourselves to the sustainable development, safety, and security of the community and society.

Thank you very much!