Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Iqaluit September 12, 2018 - 10:06 pm

British Airways jet safely makes emergency landing in Iqaluit

Passenger says diversion prompted by electrical malfunction that created smoke in cockpit

JANE GEORGE
An Iqaluit firefighter can be seen standing at the door of a British Airways jet on the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 12, about an hour and a half after the aircraft made an emergency landing in Iqaluit. (PHOTO BY FRANK REARDON)
An Iqaluit firefighter can be seen standing at the door of a British Airways jet on the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 12, about an hour and a half after the aircraft made an emergency landing in Iqaluit. (PHOTO BY FRANK REARDON)
Elderly passengers off British Airways flight 103 are wrapped in Red Cross blankets, as they sit in wheelchairs Sept. 13 in the terminal of the Iqaluit airport where they wait for their flight on to Calgary. (PHOTO BY FRANK REARDON)
Elderly passengers off British Airways flight 103 are wrapped in Red Cross blankets, as they sit in wheelchairs Sept. 13 in the terminal of the Iqaluit airport where they wait for their flight on to Calgary. (PHOTO BY FRANK REARDON)

(Updated, Sept. 13, 11:40 a.m.)

Yet another international flight made an unexpected landing in Iqaluit Wednesday evening, but thanks to the new air terminal, passengers were able to get off the aircraft.

A new British Airways jet, BA Flight 9152, arrived today in Iqaluit from London’s Heathrow airport at 12:50 p.m. to pick up the roughly 200 passengers and crew who ended up spending the night in Iqaluit.

Their short stay in Nunavut’s capital began when a British Airways jet, BA Flight 103, landed in Iqaluit at 7:20 p.m., during an emergency landing prompted by a “technical fault,” the airline told Nunatsiaq News.

The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, which had left London’s Heathrow airport at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 12, was expected to land at Calgary International Airport at 8:15 p.m. until it diverted to Iqaluit about five hours into its flight.

While the emergency landing of the jet in Iqaluit, in temperatures of about 1 C, with light snow falling, went off without a problem, the circumstances that caused the aircraft to make an emergency landing remained unclear, even as the passengers disembarked from the aircraft into the Iqaluit terminal about an hour and a half later.

Firefighters and other emergency response vehicles were at the Iqaluit airport, after the jet came to a stop on the tarmac.

Earlier this year, a Delta Boeing 767-300 en route to Detroit, Michigan from Frankfurt, Germany made an unscheduled emergency stop in Iqaluit due to the illness of a flight attendant.

While the airline didn’t specify what problem caused the plane to divert, one passenger told Nunatsiaq News that an electrical malfunction caused smoke to enter the cockpit.

At about 10:30 p.m.on Sept. 12, a British Airways statement to Nunatsiaq News attributed the emergency landing to “technical fault” with the jet.

“We are very sorry for the delays to customers’ travel plans as a result of a technical fault with one of our aircraft,” the emailed statement said.

“We are caring for the affected customers. The safety of our customers and crew is always our top priority and we would never operate a flight unless it was safe to do so.”

The 9,000-square-foot terminal at the Iqaluit airport, which opened last year, is equipped to receive international flights.

The new set-up includes lounges, screening, immigration and customs and baggage areas for passengers on international flights, and the entire departure lounge area can be made into an international “bubble” by moving a few walls.

This would have, for example, allowed the 200 or so passengers of the stranded Swiss International Airlines flight, which made an emergency landing in Iqaluit in February 2017, before the new airport opened, to disembark, rather than remain on board for hours.

At about 10 p.m. school buses were spotted on the tarmac near the British Airways jet, waiting to pick them up. With hotels in the city completely full, as one front desk person noted, the passengers went to Iqaluit’s Forward Operating Location where there is space for about 200 people.

The FOL, built in the mid-1980s, was part of a NORAD system to defend northern Canada. Hangars for six fighter jets were built, along with accommodations for up to 200 support personnel, and storage facilities.

There, members of the local Canadian Red Cross were on hand to help everyone and hand out personal hygiene packs and blankets—and Red Cross teddy bears.

On Thursday morning an Iqaluit woman was able to connect with a friend who was on the flight.

British Airways confirmed that it would send its replacement aircraft to take passengers on to Calgary on Thursday. At about 11 a.m. Sept. 13 they could be seen lining up in the air terminal, some in shorts and wearing no socks, despite the 3 C temperature outside.

As she waited in line, Lynn Meadows, who connected with her friend Gwen Healey in Iqaluit, said the unexpected stop was her third visit to the city, although she was likely the only one on the aircraft who could say that.

Although she was able to get out of the FOL site with Healey, most of the the passengers headed directly to the airport in the morning after the busses started to arrive for their 3 p.m. flight to Calgary.

Passengers received chicken wings, apples and chips after arriving at the FOL, and a full breakfast in the morning, thanks to the Frobisher Inn, said Meadows.

Meadows praised the “supportive” and “reassuring” efforts of everyone who helped out in the city, as well as British Airways: they found residents who could speak Punjabi to some passengers who spoke no English and made sure that passengers who required medicines received these from the Qikiqtani General Hospital.

The decision to divert to Iqaluit took place “very quickly,” Meadows said, as most sleepy passengers were stretched out in their pods for a rest, more than five hours into their flight to Calgary.

First, the crew were all called to the front of the aircraft, she said. Then the captain came on the public announcement system, saying they needed to divert—and crew members went around the cabin putting things away.

Within 15 minutes, they were on the ground: “We didn’t know where we were,” Meadows said.

But they soon learned that an electrical malfunction, which had started to fill the cockpit with smoke, forced the decision to divert to Iqaluit.

The disabled jet will remain on the ground in Iqaluit, where British Airways said “our engineers will conduct a thorough inspection.”

“Our highly trained flight crew diverted the aircraft as a precaution after a technical issue,” was the airline’s response to what Meadows recounted.

In 2017, a huge Antonov cargo aircraft had to bring in a new engine for the Swiss jet, which finally departed, on its own power.

Early Thursday morning, Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern, attending a Federation of Canadian Municipalities meeting in Nova Scotia, thanked those who helped during the night, with the British Airways aircraft, crew and passengers.

 

 

After a night spent in Iqaluit, the passengers who arrived in Nunavut during the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 12, on British Airways Flight 103 line up at 11 a.m. the following morning to board the replacement aircraft that will take them to their destination. (PHOTO BY FRANK REARDON)
After a night spent in Iqaluit, the passengers who arrived in Nunavut during the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 12, on British Airways Flight 103 line up at 11 a.m. the following morning to board the replacement aircraft that will take them to their destination. (PHOTO BY FRANK REARDON)
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