As a result of erroneous pull-up warnings from cockpit sensors, Air Canada Flight 43 was forced to make a U-turn and return to Delhi. Following safety procedures, the pilots made their way back to Delhi instead of performing a risky maneuver if they had received the notice at a lower altitude. Recent Air Canada problems, including detours and a vomit-tainted aircraft, have raised questions about the company’s health and safety procedures.
An Air Canada Boeing 777 was forced to make a U-turn and return to Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) on August 27 when cockpit sensors told the crew to draw up to prevent coming into contact with some terrain. The fact that the aircraft was flying at almost 30,000 feet, however, clearly showed that the flight’s instruments were inaccurate.
In the end, there were no casualties, and the aircraft promptly made its way back to Delhi, preventing a huge crisis. But if the pilots had gotten a similar alert at a lower altitude, they might have executed a risky move if they had listened to the system’s instructions.
A Boeing 777-200 completed Air Canada Flight 43, the return journey from Delhi to Toronto-Pearson International Airport (YYZ), on this particular flight. Under typical circumstances, the nightly overnight flight departs from DEL around 10:30 PM and is due in Toronto at 5:40 AM the following morning, for a roughly 14 and a half hour flight.
But on the evening of August 27, Flight 43 deviated from its usual course. The Air Canada Boeing 777-200 lifted off from DEL at 22:54 Indian Standard Time with 316 people on board after a minor delay on the ground. The airplane entered Pakistani airspace at 23:17 after reaching its cruise altitude of 30,000 feet.
Despite being about 30,000 feet above the Pakistani city of Peshawar, the pilots received a “terrain, pull up!” alert from the cockpit instruments when they arrived at a place about 430 nautical miles northwest of Delhi. It had already been 37 minutes since the plane’s takeoff when the pilots got this notice at 23:36.
The pilots heeded the alert and immediately followed all required safety procedures to make sure that nothing crucial to the flight had been harmed by whatever was wrong with the terrain sensor. In the end, the crew decided to turn around and head back to Delhi after being unable to agree on whether the flight should continue to Toronto. The pilots were given the go-ahead to turn around and return to Delhi for an emergency landing at 00:07. The team increased their altitude to 31,000 feet for the return trip.
At 02:22, or around 150 minutes after taking off in the direction of Toronto, the plane made a successful landing back in Delhi. Before taxiing over the apron, emergency service crews welcomed the airliner and conducted a quick assessment of the aircraft.
Several separate Air Canada incidents have recently been in the news. Two women were hauled off an aircraft that was allegedly polluted by vomit last week, and the airline issued an apology to the customers. In addition, the airline has seen a number of aircraft diversions over the previous few weeks, with a significant one involving a 767 cargo plane that had to land at London Heathrow due to multiple aircraft system failures.