Canadian Carrier Air Transat last evening confirmed that passengers aboard flight TS 236 bound for Lisbon, which made an emergency landing in Terceira in the Azores at 6:46 a.m. GMT on August 24, arrived in Lisbon at 4:17 a.m. local time (11:17 p.m. EST, August 24), on August 25, aboard a Lockheed L1011 airplane dispatched to the site by the Company.
Air Transat personnel and professionals, who were deployed to provide on-site psychological support, accompanied the passengers. Other resources were made available in Lisbon to further assist passengers.
Given that the Terceira Airport is closed, passengers were transported to the Ponta Delgada airport, where the airplane awaited them.
Seven passengers, two of whom suffered fractures at the time of the evacuation, chose to remain in Terceira and be transported to Lisbon once the runway reopens. In total, flight TS 236 transported 291 passengers and 13 crew members. The majority of passengers were Canadian of Portuguese descent.
"We have experienced a very serious incident, one whose fortunate outcome was largely due to the competence and professionalism of the pilots and crew. Despite the stress and anxiety, aircraft evacuation was completed within 90 seconds, an undertaking that requires clear direction, exceptional execution and speed, especially an aircraft of this size (362 seats). Many passengers have acknowledged the crew and Air Transat wishes to join them in this recognition. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by this incident," declared Denis Jacob, Air Transat President and Chief Executive Officer.
The Company has already advised the passengers of the TS 236 flight in question that their airfare will be fully refunded.
Flight TS 236 left Toronto on time at 8:10 p.m. EST on August 23. While the Airbus A330-200, operating since 1999, was flying at a cruising altitude of 39,000 feet and was around 30 minutes from the Azores, a technical problem caused a significant loss of fuel. The captain then took appropriate measures. He decided to direct the aircraft towards Terceira, the closest airport, and had passengers prepare for a possible ditching - a procedure required for all emergencies over water.
Both aircraft engines ceased functioning several minutes prior to landing. Eight of the ten landing gear wheels burst on touchdown. No fire or smoke was reported in the cabin. Emergency evacuation procedures were rapidly and systematically implemented. The hypothesis of incorrect fuelling in Toronto has been definitely ruled out.
Forty-nine-year-old Captain Robert Piche, who has thirty years of airline experience and has been employed by Air Transat for close to five years, was the pilot in command. Twenty-eight-year-old First Officer Dick Dejager has been employed by Air Transat for three years. The crew is currently in Terceira and will soon return.
"It seems clear that our pilots did an outstanding job. Because of their professionalism, flying skills and training, our pilots handled a most difficult situation. We commend their achievement, as well as that of the entire crew. Evacuating such an aircraft in 90 seconds required quick and decisive action on the part of cabin personnel, with the goal being a rapid evacuation of the aircraft. We salute the entire crew," added Mr. Jacob.
The Portuguese authorities will carry out an investigation on the cause and circumstances surrounding the incident. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada and Transport Canada will participate in the investigation. Air Transat is fully collaborating, as are Airbus and Rolls Royce. Air Transat will also carry out its own internal investigation, which is already underway.
Air Transat said it will fully abide by all measures undertaken and announced by Transport Canada. Following the incident, Transport Canada announced an ETOP (Extended Range Twin-Engine Operation) audit of Air Transat's three Airbus-A330 aircraft. Until further notice, these three aircraft will have to conform to the basic standard for two-engine aircraft.
Air Transat advises its customers that all flights are operating as scheduled. As always, it is recommended that passengers confirm their departure by contacting the Company 48 hours in advance at 1-877-TRANSAT.
Air Transat, a Canadian carrier, currently operates 24 aircraft, three of which are Airbus A330s (two Airbus A330-200s and one Airbus A330-300), as well as 4 Airbus A310-300s, 6 Lockheed L1011-500s, 7 Lockheed 1011-100s and 4 Boeing 757-200s. Air Transat travels to 90 destinations in 25 countries. The Company transported 3.5 million passengers last year and 23 million passengers since its start in 1987. In 14 years, the Company has not had any accidents causing injury and the incident involving flight TS 236 was its third emergency evacuation since the company's inception.
The two-year-old Airbus A330, which was involved in the emergency landing in Terceira, has never been implicated in any other incident. The Company's safety record compares favorably to all other Canadian airline carriers. Also, the Company's aircraft maintenance and training programs, including training in emergency situations, strictly conform to Transport Canada standards.