CALGARY — An Air Canada flight from Calgary to Toronto took an unexpected white-knuckle turn Thursday when a mechanical problem forced the plane to land back where it started.
The hydraulic doors over the landing gear wouldn’t close, so the pilot of Flight 1150 followed safety procedures and returned to Calgary International Airport. The A-320 with 158 passengers and crew had to stay in a holding pattern to burn off fuel before attempting to land. Police, fire and emergency medical crews had been put on alert and were standing by.
“The pilot said to be calm it was just the landing-gear chute … nothing to be alarmed or anything,” passenger Jeff Dumanski told reporters as he rushed to collect his luggage and to work out another flight to Toronto.
“We all held on for landing. Personally I just kind of braced myself for a rough landing in case the gear folded up or something, but other than that I was just thinking of the loved ones at home, praying for the best.”.
Sylvia Harrill and her husband Reg said there wasn’t a lot of drama on the flight but she was a little bit worried anyway.
“I just hoped we wouldn’t have a belly landing. I knew the fire department would be there but I didn’t say anything,” she said.
“I think we thought that was a terrible time. It always is — taking off and landing is always the time that you get nervous.”
Airport spokesman Stephan Poirier said police, fire, and emergency medical personnel were called out shortly before 10 a.m. But it was all over less than half an hour later when the aircraft touched down without complications.
“The captain contacted air traffic control at 9:48 advising of hydraulic problems and he wished to return to Calgary,” Poirier told The Canadian Press.
“So we activated the emergency services and we entered the standby mode waiting for him to land. He did so and landed safely. Everything is fine. No one was hurt.”
Air Canada spokeswoman Angela Mah said the captain turned back because instruments were indicating a mechanical problem.
“As per our standard operating procedures, the captain returned to Calgary as a precautionary measure,” Mah said in an email.
“It is important to note that the landing was routine and safe.”
The aircraft, its passengers and crew still inside, was towed off the runway as a safety precaution, Mah added.
An Air Canada maintenance crew was to assess the aircraft.
Poirier described tense moments as the airport activated its emergency services and waited for the plane to land. All the airport’s firefighting crews as well as 13 ambulances were on standby.
He said hydraulics problems are always serious.
“We never know what it is,” Poirier said. “The pilot will clarify that later … but hydraulics is what runs the aircraft systems — all of them. It’s a fairly big thing.”
For the most part, the passengers took the entire event in stride.
“Everybody on the plane was very calm,” said Evelyn Peirce. “No one was panicking. Nobody was getting upset so we were actually having quite a bit of fun.”