Passenger jumps from plane 7,000 metres over Nunavut
CAMBRIDGE BAY, Nunavut - The aviation community in the North is abuzz with praise for a flight crew who managed to land a small plane in Nunavut after a distraught passenger opened a door at 7,000 metres and jumped.
The pilot of the Adlair Aviation King Air 200 declared an on-board emergency Wednesday as the cabin of the plane quickly depressurized, filling the cockpit with a roar of frigid, Arctic air.
The plane, a twin-engine turboprop, managed to safely put down with its door wide open at Cambridge Bay.
Paul Laserich, general manager of the small family-owned airline that has operated in the North for more than 25 years, paid tribute to the two pilots.
"I am quite proud of my flight crew. They brought the ship safely back," Laserich said Thursday. "Everybody is OK. They are a little shaken up. They are OK. That is what is most important."
He declined to say anything about the 20-year-old Cambridge Bay man who jumped.
"Our condolences and thoughts and prayers are with the family."
RCMP say the drama began when the pilots on the plane enroute from Yellowknife reported that a passenger had become unruly. They told police they tried everything they could to prevent the man from jumping but were unsuccessful.
RCMP interviewed the flight crew and the remaining passenger, a woman, after the plane landed.
"The plane came in with the door open," said Staff Sgt. Harold Trupish. "Somehow they were able to control the aircraft to land. The three other people are all OK."
RCMP and searchers in a Twin Otter aircraft were flying over the route about 160 kilometres south of Cambridge Bay searching for the man's body. His name was not released.
Word quickly spread among the small aircraft charter companies that fly in the North.
A pilot from another airline said dealing with such a depressurization emergency at that altitude would have been frightening and challenging.
"The shock of it. It would have been instantly cold," said the man, who declined to be identified.
"You would have a hard time breathing. Things would have been flying around the airplane. It would have been mass confusion."
The pilot said instructions for opening the exits are printed clearly on the inside of the door in case they have to be opened by a passenger in an emergency.
RCMP were investigating.
The Transportion Safety Board was told about what happened, but was not investigating. The board said it was providing technical support to police.
"This is not a safety-related matter in terms of the operation of the aircraft or in terms of the mechanical adequacy of the aircraft," said board spokesman John Cottreau from Ottawa.
"All I can tell you is that this is a matter for the RCMP and the coroner's office."
The incident cast a pall over the community of Cambridge Bay as people sought information about what happened and speculated on why the man jumped.
"The whole town is pretty shaken up about it," said Max Dolling, manager of the Cambridge Bay Hotel.
"Everybody knows that a door was opened and the young man left the airplane. That's about it."