PASSENGERS on a late evening WestJet flight from Vancouver to the Northwest Regional Airport Feb. 13 found themselves taking the very long way home when the aircraft’s landing gear wouldn’t release.
The aircraft, a Dash-8 400, was instead diverted to Prince George where it landed just after midnight Feb. 14, after the crew manually lowered the gear while emergency ground crews waited on standby.
WestJet then put up the passengers in Prince George for the night and provided meals.
Passengers were rebooked on flights Feb. 14 and in the case of at least one Terrace family, the travel plan involved a flight to Vancouver then a flight onward to Calgary, a four hour wait and then finally a return from Alberta on a direct flight to Terrace.
But the weather in the Terrace area was too windy for the Calgary flight to land and the aircraft flew again to Vancouver.
WestJet again provided lodging and meals for an overnight stay in Vancouver and the passengers returned to Terrace the morning of Feb. 15.
“First and foremost, we apologize to our guests for their experience this past weekend,” said Lauren Stewart from WestJet on Feb. 16.
“WestJet Encore flight 3107 was diverted to Prince George on its way to Terrace on Sunday morning, February 14. The flight landed safely at approximately 12:30 a.m. after the landing gear was manually released. There were no injuries to anyone on board and all guests were given food and hotel vouchers for the evening and rebooked to Terrace through Calgary.
“After the diversion and the wait in Calgary, the weather conditions in Terrace did prevent us from landing on Monday and the flight was sent to Vancouver.
“We can definitely understand the frustration our guests must have felt at this point but above all, safety is our top priority. Clearly though, this was a poor experience for all the guests involved and that is why, in addition to taking care of the guests for two nights including food and hotel, our guest relations team is in the process of providing compensation to all affected guests,” she said.
No details about the type of compensation offered to passengers were provided.
There was also no immediate explanation of why the aircraft was diverted to Prince George from Terrace.
In a separate incident, this time on Feb. 9, arcing at an electrical connection in a wheel well of a WestJet flight bound for Terrace from Calgary caused brief concern.
“We can confirm that the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) was investigating an occurrence aboard a WJ Encore Flight from Terrace to Calgary on February 9,” said Stewart.
“The aircraft landed safely after crew procedures corrected an electrical fault. At no time was there a danger to the guests or crew.”
Mike Adam, a senior technical investigator with Transport Canada said the arcing occurred when the electrical connection failed.
“The aircraft electrical protection system then worked when the breaker popped as required, breaking the circuit,” he said, adding it’s similar to what happens in a person’s home when the circuit breaker pops in the electrical panel.
The aircraft has been returned to service, said Adam.
“The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) is working with Bombardier, the manufacturer of the aircraft, to see if there have been other similar occurrences,” said Adam.
Since the electrical connector was made in the U.S., the TSB is contacting its American equivalent to see if something similar has happened with this kind of connector elsewhere, he added.
The electrical connector is part of an electrical system which provides AC (alternating current) power from one of the plane’s engines.
It just happened that the electrical connector is located within the wheel well area, said Adam.
“There were no issues with the landing gear; there was no fire,” he said.
WestJet began flying into Terrace from Vancouver in the fall of 2013 and from Calgary to Terrace in the spring of 2015.