Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Miracle Flight 358

It's certainly not the best way to arrive in Toronto, but it could have been a lot worse.

All 309 passengers and crew of Air France Flight 358 are lucky to be alive today following yesterday's crash at Lester B. Pearson Airport. While attempting to land under severe weather conditions, the plane skidded off the end of the runway and plunged into a ravine, bursting into flames.

Black smoke billowed out and a number of explosions sent small fireballs skyward but Toronto Airport officials say that, in the 52 seconds it took rescue crews to arrive on-site, approximately three-quarters of the plane had already been evacuated. In just under 2 minutes, the craft was empty, with the co-pilot being the last to exit.

Although reports vary as to the number of people who sustained minor injuries (Air France claims 22 while Airport officials say 43), it's practically a miracle there was no loss of life in such a disastrous wreck.

The exact cause of the crash has yet to be determined, but the airport had been under a "red alert" all day due to a number of storm cells that passed through the area. Excessive windshear, or possibly a microburst, could have been a factor. Reports from survivors say that all the lights went out in the cabin just before touchdown, indicating a possible lightning strike. The black box will be recovered today.

On an ironic note, one airport staffer said yesterday that lightning may have caused problems with the airport's lightning detection system...

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