Monday, January 05, 2015

Porter Airlines still investigating troubled Sudbury flight

Officials with Porter Airlines are continuing to investigate a Dec. 28 incident in which the pilot of a plane destined for Sudbury made an emergency landing after smoke was detected in the cabin of the airline.

Porter is also now investigating what is at least the third flight diversion for the airline in less than a week.

Saturday, a Porter Airlines flight from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport to Montreal had to turn around and land again in Toronto after a washroom alarm sounded, according to media reports.

That followed the Dec. 28 incident in which Porter Flight 539, which left Billy Bishop for Sudbury some time after 7:30 p.m., was in the air about 15 minutes when people noticed smoke wafting into the cabin from air vents.

The 74 passengers on the flight to Sudbury were told by flight attendants to assume the crash position -- bent forward, head between their knees -- and brace for an emergency landing.

No one was injured when the pilot safely landed the plane at Toronto Pearson International Airport. A female passenger was treated for possible anxiety and two flight attendants were looked at as a precaution by medical personnel.

Porter continues to work with the aircraft manufacturer and other authorities as part of its investigation into the Sudbury incident, said a Porter spokeswoman.

"We will implement any findings that these investigations may suggest. We do not have any further information at this time," Robyn van Teunenbroek wrote The Sudbury Star.

It isn't clear if the Transportation Safety Board of Canada is involved in the investigation. A call to the board Friday wasn't returned and the Porter spokeswoman didn't mention the agency by name.

Sudbury Wolves' overage forward Nathan Pancel was on the diverted flight, along with teammates Sam Tanquay and Trenton Bourque. Pancel, 20, said all three were frightened when the cabin filled with smoke and passengers were told to assume the crash position.

Pancel admitted he prayed silently, as did several passengers out loud, in the tense minutes before the pilot made the emergency landing.

Another passenger, Rogers radio creative writer Chris Rivest, said he was nervous mostly because he wasn't sure how serious the situation was.

One of the engines on the twin-engine plane was shut down using standard procedures, said a Porter spokeswoman. Rivest and a fellow passenger noticed one of the plane's propellers wasn't revolving during the crisis, he said.

Another flight out of Billy Bishop airport Dec. 28, Flight 723 bound for Washington, also had to be diverted. It landed in Williamsport, Penn., after smoke filled the cabin of that aircraft.

"The safety of our passengers continues to be our number one priority," said Porter in a statement issued after the two incidents.

On the weekend, Porter spokesman Brad Cicero told CTV News that the airline was looking for a "specific cause" for the alarm sounding on the Montreal flight Saturday.

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