Air Canada Emergency Landing

Last modified on January 10th, 2008

Just read that an Air Canada flight from Victoria to Toronto was forced to make an emergency landing in Calgary due to turbulence. Apparently the plane hit a patch of turbulence that sent a pile of people into the ceiling. I would have probably shit my pants had that happened on my flight. My last flight to Kelowna was pretty bad, and my glasses came off at one point, but thankfully my head didn’t encountered the ceiling.

Half a dozen passengers were badly injured after an Air Canada plane bucked in midair on a flight across Canada, probably because of heavy turbulence.

A spokesman for Calgary Emergency Medical Services said a number of passengers had been taken off the plane in stretchers with head and spinal injuries. They were in stable condition despite “potentially life threatening” injuries.

One passenger said the bumps had been over in seconds.

“It happened very fast,” a female passenger in the plane’s front cabin told CBC Television.

“One side of the plane just went up a little bit sideways and then it just sort of went back down. And our friend was really hurt … she flew up and hit the ceiling and (came) right back down.”

Early media reports had said that up to 40 passengers were hurt, 15 of them seriously.

Clearly the seatbelt sign was off, otherwise most people would have been buckled in. That means either the turbulence was completely unexpected, or the pilots weren’t really paying attention and didn’t put the seatbelt sign on before encountering it.

Here’s another article that talks about the computer being disengaged due to the turbulence.

“Some of the armrests on the aisle seat sides were bent 60 degrees from people holding on – that’s how extreme it was,” said Jayne Harvey, a passenger on Thursday’s AC190 flight that made an unscheduled stop in Calgary so that 10 passengers could be treated in hospital.
None was hurt seriously.
Harvey, one of 83 passengers on the Airbus A319, said the plane dropped sharply, then rolled left and right as the pilots fought to bring it under control.
The pilots, she said, came on the intercom “and said they were flying manually and that the computer had been knocked out.

CBC is speculating that it was a technical malfunction, but most auto-pilots are designed to disengage when they encounter difficult situations or a pilot override. Even manually moving the sidestick or the yoke will typically disengage an auto-pilot.