“Would the lead steward please come to the flight deck... immediately”. Sounds like one of those in-flight announcements from a dramatic plane crash movie. No one would ever want to hear this in reality. Unfortunately, it’s exactly what the passengers on Air Transat Flight 236 heard as their plane ran out of fuel somewhere above the Atlantic.
It was supposed to be a regular flight for Air Transat from Toronto, Canada, to Lisbon, Portugal. The weather was fine that August evening, and Flight 236 took off without delays. It had 306 people on board. The Airbus was fairly new, with only 2 years of active service. It had two powerful engines, and 5 tons more fuel than is required when it took off. Yet, 8 hours later, when the plane should have touched down in Lisbon, it was nowhere to be seen...
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TIMESTAMPS: No warning signs of an emergency 0:29 The first alarming message 1:50 Fuel imbalance? What the... 2:35 Engine #2 fails completely 4:08 Panic in the cabin 5:02 The only attempt to touch down safely 6:20 The landing: shock and terror 7:24 How they got into this situation 8:39
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SUMMARY: - At 05:03 UTC, after over 4 hours of a totally normal flight, the first alarming message came through. The onboard computer informed the pilots that the oil temperature had dropped and the oil pressure was higher than normal on engine 2, that same right engine. - At 05:36 UTC another warning came through – this time about a fuel imbalance. The pilots, again, thought it was a false alarm and followed protocol for the situation. - At 05:45 UTC, the pilots made the decision to divert the plane to the Azores and land it at Lajes Air Base. 3 minutes later, they informed Santa Maria Oceanic air traffic control they had a fuel emergency. - At 06:13 UTC, when the plane was at 39,000 feet (11,880 m) and still 170 miles (273 km) away from Lajes, engine #2 failed completely from lack of fuel. - They only had one option now – to glide for the rest of the distance to the base. Mr. DeJager, who was the co-pilot on Flight 236, remembers they were flying as if in a simulator dealing with new problems that arose every minute. - All emergency services were activated on the ground, waiting for the plane to land safely. The pilots realized they only had 15 to 20 minutes and one attempt to touch down safely and save the passengers. - At 06:45 UTC, the plane finally touched ground at the airbase, but it wasn’t exactly a smooth landing. 14 passengers and two crew members needed some medical help, and two people got seriously injured during the evacuation. - It turned out that just five days before the incident maintenance staff installed a new right engine. It didn’t come with a hydraulic pump, so they decided to take one from a similar engine and attach it to the new one. - There was a leak in the fuel hose, and it could have killed 306 people!
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