P_7878

Azores Glider - The case of Air Transat Flight 236

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On August 24 (2001), this Toronto to Lisbon bound Transat flight, nearly 4 hours into the transatlantic flight, lost both engines, over the Atlantic, due to fuel-starvation caused by a leak in the fuel-line. After fuel-anomaly was confirmed, the pilots had decided to divert to the Azores islands, but engine #2 flamed out first at 39000' still 150 nm away from the Lajes Air Force Base (LPLA)/Azores. Thirteen minutes later, while still 65 nm away, engine #1 also flamed out. The Captain of the aircraft, Canadian Robert Piché (48), (also an experience glider-pilot), and his First-Officer, then successfully performed a miraculous sequence of procedures to complete a landing at the Lajes AFB, saving all 306 souls on board.

They calculated they had about 15 to 20 minutes left before they would be forced to ditch in the ocean. Military air traffic controllers guided the aircraft to the airport with their radar system. When the air base was sighted, Captain Piché had to execute one 360 degree turn, and then a series of "S" turns, to dissipate excess altitude. The plane touched down hard, approximately 1,000 feet past the threshold of the runway, at a speed of approximately 200 knots, bounced once and then touched down again. Maximum emergency braking was applied and retained, and the plane came to a stop 7,600 feet from the threshold of the 10,000-feet runway (well ahead of the end of the runway). Since the anti-skid and brake modulation systems were in-operative, the eight main wheels locked up; the tires abraded and fully deflated within 450 feet of touchdown.

This (famous) plane has been since repaired by Airbus, and reportedly continues to fly to this day. Because of lessons learned from this incidence, the Airbus Flight Manuals were adjusted, and the on-board computer systems were modified to more closely monitor all fuel-levels against the flight plan. For his feat, Captain Piché was later awarded the Superior Airmanship Award by the Air Line Pilots' Association.

For this post, I have stayed true to the (Transat) livery (this being actually the older color; Transat has since unveiled a new color), and to the specific Airbus variant (330-200; model due to JF/CLS), but, for my flight here, between CYYZ and LPLA, I've made the flight un-eventful. Nonetheless, hopefully, from some of the images, you can feel the vastness conveyed by the surrounding sky and the ocean (including by one shot of the lonely shadow accompanying the plane) - when the most advanced automation has become in-operative, and one is desperately seeking sight of land (the tiny Azores archipelago consisting of the cluster of 9 volcanic islands) in the middle of nowhere! Thanks for viewing. [JF(A330)/REX]

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What an absolutely fabulous recant of a real-life air event and I love the way you have more or less encapsulated the entire event---a real pilot's life-saving record in a way----,through your wonderful shots. Was the actual aircraft an Airbus A310 or was it an A330 that you credit JF here for?

A history lesson AFAIC.

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Robert Piche is quite a public character in Quebec province where he lives. A film was made about this event. His presence on a flight or at Montreal airport as captain was an immediate subject of discussion. 

I was in flight from Montreal (St-Hubert) airport to Quebec on October 1st 2017 when I was given a restriction at 7000 ft because of a heavy in approach. It was Air Transat from Rome and the last commercial Flight from M. Piche before retirement. I followed the conversation trough the Terminal (canadian equivalent of US Tracon) and then the tower on my second radio and there was a warm welcome and congratulation for his outstanding career from the ATC all along the way until landing. 

 

Edited by kama2004
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Rick: The nearest model, in my possession, that I could recall to use here was the CLS A330-200 (RR) - of course, not high-fidelity. Rolls-Royce was the engine type for the actual A330-243 Airbus in the Air Transat Flight 236 (per Wiki).

Pierre: Thanks for the recollection. So, Robert Piche has now retired...quite an outstanding career it must have been...so the ATC reaction, you mention, is certainly understood...

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Not just some pretty pictures, but an inspiring tale as well.

John

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I remember reading the story on an aviation magazine 17 years ago. The Captain had been formerly sentenced for smuggling marijuana using small aircrafts. It's great to see someone given a second chance to be rehabilitated and then become a hero.

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On 1/26/2019 at 10:58 PM, PLund said:

The aircraft is indeed still flying.
As matter of fact it is currently dry-leased to Thomas Cook Scandinavia and is re-registered as OY-VKK ( https://www.jetphotos.com/photo/9164569 ).

Yep, found that out the other day as I was wondering what C-GITS was up to these days. Previously it was a regular over my office as I work a mile or so from London Gatwick :)

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