British Airways passengers and crew arrive in Calgary following emergency stop in Iqaluit
Published Thursday, September 13, 2018 9:17PM MDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 13, 2018 9:49PM MDT
A mechanical issue on Wednesday’s British Airways flight BA103 from London to Calgary prompted an emergency landing and an impromptu overnight stay in the arctic for passengers and crew.
“We train for it and there’s always the potential of something going wrong,” said Captain Richard Dunn from the Calgary Airport International after a replacement aircraft landed in Calgary late Thursday afternoon. “It’s a machine. We always know where we are situationally and where we would go if something were to go wrong. We were the unlucky ones.”
A burning smell and smoke was noticed inside the cabin of the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner after departing London’s Heathrow Airport on Wednesday and a decision was made to make an unscheduled stop in Nunavut’s capital .
“I think we were almost four hours in and then we just heard the pilot come over the intercom saying ‘Could a senior member of the cabin crew come immediately’," said passenger Kara Gibson. "It was said in that tone where you went ‘this doesn’t sound right’.”
Malvinder Singh was on his way for what was expected to be a peaceful vacation. “Obviously we knew there was a problem. Very soon there was a descent in the middle of what we thought was the ocean and we said ‘Oh, something’s wrong’. There was some announcement and the crew went about obviously a little bit rushed but the passengers were all fairly calm. The whole atmosphere was reasonably calm and collected. Nobody was screaming or shouting or anything like that.”
Captain Dunn says the situation in the cockpit was pretty intense and he was full of adrenalin at the time. The experience became incredibly positive after the aircraft landed at approximately 7:20 p.m. local time and it was confirmed that everyone was safe. “Since then, the 20 hours have been absolutely rewarding. It’s been great to meet some of our passengers and it was great to meet some of your fellow ground staff of Canadians.”
Gibson said members of The Red Cross and Canadian Armed Forces met the passengers and gave instructions. "We went through immigration. The lady that was on immigration, it was one lady, processing like 260 people. She did amazing.”
The influx of the British Airways passengers and crew was the talk of the city that, as of 2016 census numbers, has a population of less than 8,000 people.
Singh had no complaints regarding the way the airline handled the situation and says he enjoyed his brief time in Iqaluit, a place he admitted to being completely unaware of prior to his arrival.
“We were treated very well,” said Singh. “Obviously there was no accommodation for so many people where we landed. We had cots and it was emergency stuff. Sure it’s been a long time since we’ve done camping in that kind of environment but that’s what it is. No issues.”
“While we were there in the waiting lounge we got to speak with local people and get to understand what the whole area was.”
The arrivals level at the Calgary International Airport hosted an impromptu gathering of the Iqaluit visitors after rescue flight BA9158 touched down. “It’s great to see everybody back here, safe and hopefully not distressed about losing 24 hours of their lives,” said Captain Dunn.
British Airways has not indicated whether the issue with the original aircraft has been identified.
With files from CTV’s Stephanie Wiebe