Report by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Managing Editor
TORONTO, ONTARIO — The sight of the flight attendant running down the aisle toward the cockpit was the surest sign to passengers something was wrong with Air Canada flight 1115. Our fears were proven true when the pilot spoke the words no airline traveller wants to hear: “We are flying with one engine.”
What followed was likely the longest 10 minutes in the lives of the approximately 70 people on board the Embraer 175 jet. The plane returned to Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Wednesday morning after about 10 minutes into the flight. It was headed for Regina International Airport, with a landing scheduled for 9:37 am Mountain time in the Saskatchewan capital.
The reason for the emergency was an oil pressure leak, which could have turned into a fire had the cockpit not shut down the engine. One of the crew members told me an engine shutdown has to be taken under such circumstances in order to comply with Transport Canada safety regulations. The danger was never a crash, because the airplane has a fuel capacity of 1,677 litres (or 3,085 US gallons) and would have been able to fly as far and as long as its full tank would take it. A mid-air fire — which could have led to disaster — was the worst fear, but one that was substantially reduced with the engine shut down.
Upon landing on the tarmac in Pearson, three emergency services vehicles surrounded the airplane that joined the Air Canada fleet in 2005. It proceeded shortly afterwards to a gate, where passengers disembarked and prepared to board another plane en route to Regina.
Air Canada’s labour issues also came into play. Passengers were told our flight aboard a second aircraft would depart at 10:15 am. But a new crew first needed to be located. Flight 1115 officially boarded again around 11:20, close to three hours after its scheduled departure.
It then sat on the runway while a ground crew was found to deliver the luggage that was slow unloading from the faulty aircraft. The emergency situation then took on an air of cruel comedy when the new pilot announced at noon that he was no longer on duty.
“I know this is already a nightmare scenario for you,” he said to the cabin while apologetically explaining it would be another 20 or 30 minutes for his replacement to arrive. So even though he was okay to be on duty if the plane was in the air, the fact that it had not taken off meant his shift was up.
And passengers’ awful morning prolonged.
Not surprisingly, it took longer than we were told to find his replacement. So passengers were told to disembark once more. We were given $10 food vouchers to use at the airport and a promotional code that will give us a discount airfare on our next booking. Once we were on board, the third pilot to take control of AC1115 that day apologized and confirmed what we knew. “The company is short on resources these days. Short on crew, short on pilots,” he said.
I am on my way to Saskatchewan to tour the province while on assignment for Vacay.ca. One of the stops is Manitou Lake, which has such a high level of salinity that there’s no chance of ever sinking. After this experience, that sounds very appealing.
Canadian Tourism Wants You to Say “Action”
On Monday, the Canadian Tourism Commission launched a creative campaign that involves Canadians contributing personal videos to help entice potential visitors from abroad to come to this country.
Called 35 Million Directors, the program hopes to build “a grassroots video advertisement to be shown to consumers in our key international markets.”
Canada has seen strong growth from China, where visits have been up 24 per cent so far in 2012, and other developing countries, but tourism officials across the nation are worried because of Brand USA, an aggressive marketing campaign introduced by the American government in the spring. Brand USA has a big budget and is targeting many of the same nations that Canada is — as well as Canadians.
The CTC’s 35 Million Directors campaign runs until September 16, 2012, and awards will be handed out for the best videos produced.