Thursday, February 9, 2017

Western Air official: there was no crash

Western Air, Saab 340A, C6-KID, Flight WT-702 
Western Air, Saab 340, C6-HBW, Flight WT-708

Sherrexcia Rolle, Western Air, Vice President Operations and General Council

Following Tuesday’s aviation incident involving a Western Air plane at the Grand Bahama International Airport, airline officials say, “there was no crash per se.”

On February 7 shortly after 5:00 p.m. a Western Air aircraft carrying over 30 passengers, including flight crew experienced difficulty, en route to the capital.

After the flight landed and skidded off the runway into nearby bushes, passengers were able to disembark safely, some complaining of minor injuries.

Yesterday, this daily spoke with Sherrexcia Rolle, Vice President Operations and General Council, for an update on the incidents and passengers. 

“The majority of the passengers opted to fly out that night; they just wanted to get to their destinations, which we understood. We accommodated the majority of them on BahamasAir and Sky Bahamas,” rolle revealed. 

“There were a few passengers, who I understand, were in the hospital for generally minor injuries and are being monitored, but we are in contact with them. Everyone else was able to come in and get their bags, or their bags were sent to them. We are, just now, being cooperative with the investigators and the authorities,” she added.

As news circulated about the incident, on Tuesday afternoon, The Freeport News’ team arrived at the Western Air terminal and had the opportunity to speak with a few passengers that were on the aircraft when it experienced a malfunction. 

While some of the passengers recalled the plane “skidding” off of the runway, others stated that the plane “crashed.”

However, Rolle informed this daily on Wednesday that while there was an incident that occurred with the aircraft, there was no crash. 

“After discussing with the airport operations and individuals, those who saw it, there wasn’t a crash, per se. I feel that is was a bit misleading to say that the aircraft crashed, because the aircraft landed and went all the way down the runway. 

“It was actually turning off, to go onto the taxiway when the left gear malfunctioned causing them to hard brake and swerve off of the runway, as opposed to saying that it was an actual crash.” 

Additionally, shortly after 10:00 p.m. on Tuesday night, Western Air released a statement on their Facebook page in regard to the incident. 

Following is the statement in its entirety. 

“Statement on Flight 708- Feb 7, 2017: We are aware of the questions pertaining to the incident at GBIA with Flight 708 departing for Nassau. While we continue to gain full clarity on the situation, we wanted to ensure the public is made aware of the general facts as we receive them. Shortly after take off, the Captain noticed an indication pertaining to one of the electrical systems, he communicated with air traffic control (ATC) and followed protocol to return the aircraft back to the airport as a precaution. 

The aircraft made a normal landing with both landing gears in place; however, once the aircraft proceeded down the runway and was preparing to turn onto the taxiway, the left gear malfunctioned, causing the aircraft to swerve off the runway. All passengers and crew were evacuated off the aircraft safely. Despite news reports, Western Air did not have a crash landing. 

Western Air conducts an average of 20 flights a day, 365 days a year for over 16 years, with an experienced maintenance team that works tirelessly every day maintaining the aircrafts and ensuring regulatory compliance. Despite our strict dedication to maintenance, we are reminded these are man- made machinery and some things are beyond control. 

We are grateful for the crew who followed manufacturer’s procedures professionally to ensure the safety of the passengers and we are grateful to the passengers for their grace and understanding. Our passengers are our top priority and we will continue to ensure they are accommodated per their individual needs. We remain committed to providing safe, reliable air service. Thank you.”


Problems In Flight For Two Western Air Planes

Investigations are underway into separate incidents involving two Western Air aircraft that experienced problems while in flight on Tuesday.

Civil Aviation authorities were at the Western Air hangar in Freeport yesterday, inspecting the aircraft and speaking with the pilots, mechanics and airline officials.

Western Air has a fleet of five 33-seater SAAB 340 planes. Sherrexcia Rolle, vice president of operations and general counsel at Western Air, said that their operations have not been affected as three aircraft are still in service.

#Ms Rolle said that reports of a crash landing at Grand Bahama International Airport (GBIA) on Tuesday were inaccurate. “The pilot landed the aircraft and was proceeding as normal with both landing gears down. The left (landing) gear malfunctioned and caused the aircraft to make an abrupt swerve on the side of the runway,” she explained.

According to reports, the incident happened around 5pm, just after the plane had taken off from GBIA on its way to Nassau, with 33 passengers and three crew onboard. It was reported that the aircraft experienced technical challenges and was forced to make an emergency landing. It skidded off the runway some 200 feet into the bushes.

Ms. Rolle said that the aircraft had flown from Nassau to Bimini flawlessly, and from Bimini to Freeport. “It had taken off from Freeport when, three or four minutes into the flight, the pilot noticed some indication of an issue with his electrical system, so he communicated with Air Traffic Control and followed their instructions to fly around the tower to confirm that the gears were down,” she said.

“And he made a precautionary decision to return to the airport. He actually landed the aircraft and they proceeded to go down the runway and was making that first turn when the left gear seemed to malfunction,” she said.

Earlier that day, Ms. Rolle said another pilot had made the decision to shut down one of the engines after noticing an issue with the oil pressure during a flight from Freeport to Nassau with 20 passengers and three crew onboard. “Basically, the captain shut it down. But the SAAB 340 can fly with one engine, and so the decision the pilot made was the right one,” she said. Ms Rolle said the aircraft continued in flight and landed safely at its destination.

She said that Western Air are also conducting their own internal investigations into the incidents, in addition to the independent investigations that are being conducted by Civil Aviation. “The people we have working on the aircraft are very experienced in the region and have been working with SAAB 340 for 20 and 25 years.”

Ms. Rolle said Western Air has been working collectively with Civil Aviation and all officials to understand exactly what happened. “More than anything, we want the public to know that we remain committed to providing safe and reliable service. We put a lot of work into our maintenance programme and they are thorough with scheduled and non-scheduled maintenance.

“It was one of those situations where there was no indication of any issue and … we are continuing to investigate. But service is continuing as usual and our operations are not affected,” she said.


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