Saturday, June 14, 2014

Harbour Air float plane door opens mid-air on flight from Vancouver: 2 passengers, one who was holding an 11-month-old baby, held door shut

Nine float plane passengers were given a scare Friday when the door of their Harbour Air plane opened mid-air on a flight from Vancouver to Nanaimo.

One woman carrying an 11-month-old baby initially held the door closed, but another passenger behind her later reached across the aisle to take over.

Fellow passenger Steve Sxwithul'txw, who flies Harbour Air frequently, was sitting in the front seat and says the 20-minute flight was one he'll never forget.

"Everybody was quite shocked. There was a number of us that stood around talking about it and this is a first. And again it was the scenario ... What it could have been. What could have happened?"

Sxwithul'txw said all the passengers were wearing seatbelts.

"[The pilot] couldn't believe it. He had this shocked look on his face and said, 'It feels like a Monday.'"

Sxwithul'txw says a Harbour Air manager later told him seals break occasionally on older planes.

'Passengers not in danger'

Harbour Air insists the passengers were never in danger, saying from time to time the doors on this model of float plane can crack open slightly.

Vice president of flight operations and safety Eric Scott said the wind from the moving plane prevents the door from blowing wide open.

"The passengers aren't in any danger. It's unfortunate that it happened. I am waiting to talk to them as we speak," said Scott.

He said the plane has now returned to Vancouver for a safety inspection.

"Our maintenance team is going over the aircraft to see if there was an issue mechanically with the airplane. But it could have just been human error as well."

Incidents like this don't have to be reported to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, which says as long as passengers keep their seat belts on, there's no significant risk.

Harbour Air has offered the travellers a free flight, but Sxwithul'txw isn't sure when he will feel comfortable getting back on a float plane.

"It's ironic that in this day and age, these things that happen with planes ... that there isn't something there to prevent this from happening.

"I am going to be cautious about [travelling on a float plane again]. And ask a lot of questions."

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