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TSB: Flight AC624 struck antenna array before crash

Halifax flight skids on runway; damages wing, sends 23 people to hospital


(Canadian OH&S News) — Less than 18 hours after Air Canada (AC) Flight 624 crashed and skidded on its belly to a halt at Halifax’s Stanfield International Airport, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) announced that the aircraft had hit an antenna array about 335 metres away from the runway before hitting the ground.

The plane, an Airbus 320, had left Toronto at about 9:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on March 28, carrying 133 passengers and five crew members. At about 12:43 a.m. Halifax time, the plane smashed through the array, which tore off its main landing gear, one of the engines and the nose cone while damaging a wing, the TSB announced at a press conference on March 29 at the Alt Hotel at Stanfield.

Mike Cunningham, the TSB’s regional manager of air investigations, said at the conference that the passengers were “pretty lucky” that the incident hadn’t turned out much worse.

“This type of event is on the TSB’s watch list, and so it’s a very great concern to us,” Cunningham added. “We will be putting our maximum effort into determining what happened.”

There were no fatalities in the accident, but 23 people were sent to local hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries, according to an AC press release sent out after the occurrence. An update later in the day confirmed that 18 of the people who’d been sent to hospital had since been released, while AC had sent additional management personnel to the airport to assist passengers and their families.

“We at Air Canada are greatly relieved that no one was critically injured,” Klaus Goersch, AC’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, said in a press statement on March 29. “Yet we fully appreciate this has been a very unsettling experience for our customers and their families, as well as our employees, and we are focused on caring for all those affected.

“We will also fully cooperate with the Transportation Safety Board as it begins an investigation to determine the cause,” Goersch added.

After the incident, the TSB dispatched a team of investigators to the Stanfield runway where it had occurred. The Board has already recovered the cockpit recorder and the voice data recorder and sent them to Ottawa for analysis. According to media reports, aircraft manufacturer Airbus has also sent staff to investigate, while the RCMP has deployed drones to shoot aerial video footage of the accident scene.

At the Stanfield news conference, Cunningham said that the TSB would not rule out weather as a cause of the crash. The plane was approaching Halifax in the middle of a snowstorm, although Goersch reportedly told a news conference afterwards that the conditions had been safe and appropriate for landing. Cunningham also said that the weather conditions had been “well within the legal landing limits” at the time.

“Obviously, it’s too early to draw any conclusions about this occurrence. These things are always very complex,” Cunningham said.

The Flight 624 incident is the first major crash to occur at Stanfield in more than 10 years. In Oct. 2004, a Boeing 747 arrived from Connecticut for refuel and was set for Zaragosa, Spain, but struck a berm on takeoff and crashed into some woods. All seven people aboard were killed.