Chris Grimes, a passenger on a Provincial Airlines plane that made an emergency landing at Stephenville airport Thursday without its front wheels down, had strong praise for the pilots.
“I’ve had harder landings with all the wheels down,” the Harbour Grace man said in the terminal building in Stephenville.
He said it’s obvious the flight crew, including the attendants, were all well trained as they did a great job.
Grimes was one of 47 passengers who were on the plane that was coming from Churchill Falls, Labrador and bound for Deer Lake airport.
Brenda Martin, chief executive officer of Stephenville airport, said the airport received the call at about 11:50 a.m. advising the Dash 8 aircraft was diverting to Stephenville airport due to a missed approach at Deer Lake, where weather appeared to be a factor.
About 10 minutes later she received a call from air traffic control declaring they prepare for an emergency landing, indicating a problem with the landing gear.
Stephenville Airport Corporation mobilized its emergency response service with fire and emergency medical service crews positioned themselves on the tarmac for any outcome.
Martin said her full team was on site at the time in a meeting preparing for their winterization program.
She said the pilot landed the aircraft safely with 47 passengers and four crew and no reported injuries. Once clearance was received from the fire department, the passengers were immediately transported to the airport terminal building in minutes and later transferred to Deer Lake via motor coach to meet their rescue flight as some passengers would continue to St. John’s.
PAL maintenance and executive teams were on route on Thursday to assess the situation. Officials with the Transport Safety Board of Canada are scheduled to be on site early today.
Martin said the Transport Safety Board agreed the disabled aircraft could be removed prior to their arrival recognizing the importance of Stephenville airport as a safe alternate to other provincial airports and oceanic flights.
Three Iron Ore of Canada workers who were on the plane and they too had praise for the plane’s crew, who said they were first notified of a problem after an approach to Deer Lake airport.
Kyle Glied of Cupids said he saw the rear landing gear drop when they were descending, but then saw it go back up as the plane rose again.
He said the passengers were told of an issue with the landing gear while his co-worker, Brad Budgell of Lewisporte, estimated they circled that airport for about an hour before a decision was made to head to Stephenville for an emergency landing due to the longer runway.
He and Glied gave the pilot credit for doing an awesome job in putting the plane down.
“It was really a quiet landing,” Budgell said.
“We touched down like a feather.”