NEWS: Nunavut April 10, 2014 - 1:36 pm

First Air dismisses pilots who flew plane off course on Nunavut flight

"We learned the pilots did not follow our standard operating procedures"


First Air has dismissed two pilots who flew a Boeing 737-200 off course last month during a scheduled flight from Rankin Inlet to Iqaluit.

About three-quarters of the way into the March 31 flight, the aircraft lost communication with air traffic control during a communication hand-over from Edmonton to Montreal’s air traffic control centre.

Reports estimated the plane was about 225 nautical miles northwest of Iqaluit when the crew was contacted by a nearby aircraft to warn them that they were off course.

The pilots then re-set their instruments, turned south and landed in Iqaluit without incident.

As part of its investigation into why the plane went off course, First Air said it has reviewed flight data, navigation aids on the aircraft and conducted interviews with the pilots and cabin crew.

The pilots were initially suspended with pay for the duration of the investigation, until the airline learned more.

“During the interviews, we learned the pilots did not follow our standard operating procedures designed to eliminate navigational errors,” First Air said in an April 10 release.

“As a result, those pilots are no longer employees of First Air.”

First Air did not provide further details explaining what procedures the pilots failed to follow March 31, only saying the airline has now “reinforced the procedures with all crew and dispatch staff.”

“We have gone to great lengths to update and strengthen our standard operating procedures to ensure our pilots have the tools they need to fly safely,” said the April 10 release. “We have also increased in-flight oversight using data monitoring tools.”

Earlier this week, First Air said they determined there was no threat to passenger or crew safety on board that wayward flight.

“The safety of our passengers and crew is paramount at First Air and we are taking this incident very seriously,” the airline said.