Pilot/Catcher

2nd blog entry for the day
 
I was listening to the radio this morning before arriving at work. The hosts talked about an incident that took place on a flight yesterday. An Air Canada flight (from Victoria to Toronto) plunged 2000 metres within 15 seconds. Passengers who didn’t fasten their seatbelts suffered injuries as they were thrown everywhere. To add to the mess, it happened while drinks were being served, so carts tipped over, things hit the ceiling etc… The autopilot system failed to function, miraculously, the pilot managed to regain control. The aircraft made an emergency landing in Calgary airport.*
 
Coincidentally, what I read the first thing in my inbox this morning is the daily meditation by Henri Nouwen:
 
Trusting the Catcher

Trust is the basis of life. Without trust, no human being can live. Trapeze artists offer a beautiful image of this. Flyers have to trust their catchers. They can do the most
spectacular doubles, triples, or quadruples, but what finally makes their performance spectacular are the catchers who are there for them at the right time in the right place.

Much of our lives is flying. It is wonderful to fly in the air free as a bird, but when God isn’t there to catch us, all our flying comes to nothing. Let’s trust in the Great Catcher.

 

 
Linking these 2 pieces, I suddenly realize there is indeed very little we can control in our lives. It might seem as if we can do things at our own will (i.e. flying freely), in the end, however, all we can count on is a reliable pilot/catcher who can guarantee our safety. Nothing else matters if there is no one we can count on. Let us all remind ourselves that God is the only One we can count on. Let us not be misled to believe that counting on ourselves is sufficient.
 

 
Report on the incident:
 
Toronto Star
 
15 seconds of terror on Air Canada Flight 190
 
January 11, 2008
Petti Fong in Calgary
Emily Mathieu in Toronto
 
Passengers screamed and hit the ceiling as Air Canada Flight 190 plunged thousands of metres through the sky during 15 seconds of terror yesterday that became the longest moments in Liam King’s life.
 
"It was really quick … but it felt like an eternity," said King, one of 88 people on board the aircraft that was forced to make an emergency landing in Calgary after it bucked in midair, violently pitching people, dishes and drink carts about the cabin.
 
Ten people, including two crew members, on the Victoria to Toronto flight were treated in hospital in Calgary for a range of relatively minor injuries and later released.
"I can’t describe the screaming. No movie does it justice. There was a lot of screaming – a lot of crying," recalled Jayne Harvey, 45, a nurse from Keswick, Ont.
"I thought it was over for me," said Harvey, who helped tend to the injured. "I will admit I was saying my prayers because I really thought I was about to die. I said,
`Just take care of my family.’"
 
Some passengers had gripped their armrests so tightly they were bent 60 degrees.
 
"The people who weren’t belted in were the ones that got injured the most and those who had other people flying into them," said Harvey.
 
"All of a sudden there were three big drops," said Andrew Evans, another passenger. "The cart tipped over and there was a lot of squealing."
 
What caused the aircraft to plunge so suddenly was unknown. Canada’s Transportation Safety Board was investigating but said it was too soon to determine whether the "control problems" were caused by turbulence, mechanical problems or a mistake by the flight crew.
 
Harvey said it was a "miracle" that the pilots were able to regain control of the Airbus 319.
 
"They came on the intercom and explained they were flying manually and that the computer had been knocked out. And I don’t know if it was knocked out before, and that caused the lurch, or it was knocked out after, because of the plane lurching back and forth."
 
Both Air Canada and passengers praised the actions of the crew.
 
"The flight attendants were amazing, because a lot of them were injured themselves so they had cuts and were trying to dab blood out of their eyes," said Harvey.
She described one flight attendant rushing down the aisle of the plane with a cloth pressed to her bleeding forehead as she came to the assistance of injured passengers.
 
One woman, speaking to reporters outside the Calgary airport, said she was sitting in first class when one side of the plane "went up sort of sideways and then came back down."
 
Her friend was one of those rushed to hospital after flying up and hitting the ceiling.
Meanwhile, relatives and friends at Pearson International Airport in Toronto paced the floor as they waited for passengers who had been aboard Air Canada Flight 190 to arrive.
 
Clutching a bouquet of roses at arrivals was Geoff Norris, 70, waiting for his wife Anne. Norris teared up as he spoke about his wife’s experience and her frantic attempts to reach him.
 
"Well I was appalled that this nightmarish thing – we all think about from time to time – happened to me," he said. Norris missed the first few calls from his distraught wife, because he was in a hospital at the time, and had his cellphone turned off.
 
"For which she castigated me mightily," Norris said, adding his wife was extremely upset. "She doesn’t like flying at the best of times," he said.
When Anne Norris arrived around 5 p.m. on Air Canada Flight 164, her face was pale and she was still obviously shaken by her ordeal.
"The whole experience was horrible. We thought we were going to go down," she said.
 
Anne Norris had her seatbelt on, and was sitting in a window seat when the plane started to plummet.
 
"You could see the wings going side to side," she said. "At one point, people thought it was going to go over, but it didn’t.
 
"It was just totally unexpected," she said, right after she was reunited with her husband. "A lot of people were hurt."
 
Elise Fullerton, 16, of Mississauga, said she first heard the news when she was in class at Lorne Park Secondary School, and got a text message from her boyfriend, Stefan Linge, 19.
 
"He texted me and said `baby, I almost died," said Fullerton. She said she then called him.
 
Linge had been wearing his seatbelt, but told her there was a lot of turbulence, and the plane shook from side to side.
 
Dr. Rob Abernethy, associate chief medical officer for the Calgary Health Region said all the injuries suffered were minor.
 
"Most were orthopedic, soft tissue injuries," Abernethy said.
 
"These are mostly muscular skeletal injuries that one would see if one was bounced around, having falls, that type of thing," he said.
 
Other passengers described the turbulence inside the plane as feeling like being in a car that was rear-ended, with shoes, jackets and dishes flying about the aircraft.
 
"I thought that was the end of everything," said passenger Nisha Gill, describing looking at her 2-year-old daughter during those terrifying moments.
She was on her way from Victoria to visit her sister in Toronto. "We were just praying it would land properly."
 
"We will be co-operating fully with the Transportation Safety Board to determine the cause of the incident," said Rob Reid, executive vice-president and chief operating officer of Air Canada.
 
Last fall, nine passengers on a WestJet flight were hurt and three of them sent to hospital with non-life threatening injuries after the plane hit turbulence on a flight to Halifax from Calgary.
 
According to a preliminary Transport Canada account of yesterday’s incident, the pilots advised air traffic controllers of an "aircraft upset" that resulted in the Airbus’s sudden manoeuvres.
 
At the time, the flight was just over 100 kilometres southwest of Cranbrook, B.C. and under the control of air traffic controllers in Seattle, Wash.
Federal authorities say it’s not known whether the sudden upset was caused by air turbulence or a problem with the jet’s sophisticated flight-control system.
 
Mingpao
 
加航機3次急墜數千米 乘客餐車拋機頂 10輕傷

【明報專訊】加航一班由維多利亞(Victoria)飛往多倫多的客機,昨日在卑詩省以南上空經歷生死時速15秒,懷疑遇上強烈氣流曾急墜三次及右傾60 度側飛,機上餐具凌空飛舞,有餐車及沒扣上安全帶的乘客被拋上機頂跌下,飛機成功緊急降落卡加利國際機場,有10人受傷送院,加航及國家運輸安全局正調查事件原因。

肇事的加航AC190班機是一架A319空中巴士,當時共載88人,包括83名乘客及5名機組人員,昨晨由卑詩省的維多利亞飛往多倫多。根據網上飛行航道的紀錄顯示,肇事飛機在飛至卑詩省以南上空突然改變航道,其後卡加利國際機場接獲該航機需要緊急降落的通知,機場方面立即緊急戒備,單是派出的救護車已有十多輛。

該航機於8時30分左右成功降落在卡加利國際機場,大批在場戒備的救援人員,即時為機上多名受傷的乘客救急或敷藥,共有10名傷勢較重的乘客及機組人員被送往醫院接受進一步治療,在下午已有9人出院,有關官員透露最後一名傷者可望很快出院,而各傷者大多數是皮外傷。

肇事航機曾改變航道

加航承認肇事航機曾改變航道,但以該事件仍在調查為理由,暫未透露飛機肇事原因,亦拒絕證實飛機是否曾遇上強烈氣流。加航行政副總裁、首席營運官雷德(Rob Reid)說,公司非常關注受傷乘客,以及因該事件而「承受巨大壓力」的人士。

加航機師協會(Air Canada Pilots Association)主席威爾遜(Capt. Andy Wilson)說,加航機師受到全球最好的培訓,懂得應付突發事故,該協會亦會盡一切配合有關調查。

根據美國FlightAware公司報告,該飛機在7時50分遇上強烈氣流,機師多次改變高度,看來在尋找穩定航道。環境部也報告,周四上午有低氣壓系統穿越卑詩省上空向東移動。

運輸安全局表示會調查事發原因,又透露肇事航機在事發時曾出現控制上問題,但並未進一步透露出現什麼控制的問題。

有乘客向傳媒透露,事發時飛機突然下墜幾千米並劇烈搖晃,機長曾透過廣播稱,飛機的電腦出現某些問題,決定用人手控制。該乘客形容以飛機事發時的情況來看,當時覺得能安全降落是奇蹟,而加航機組人員應付這次意外表現出色,應該受到讚揚。

有航空專家分析,飛機除了受到強烈氣流影響會偏離航道,若電腦系統出現故障,亦會自動切斷自動導航系統,令飛機偏離航道。

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