The 747 after the runway overrun. (Transportation Safety Board of Canada photo)
HALIFAX – A 747 cargo plane went off the runway while landing early Wednesday at Halifax Stanfield International Airport, leaving a trail of debris and sending four crew to hospital.
Airport spokeswoman Theresa Rath Spicer said the SkyLease Cargo plane skidded off Runway 32 just after 5 a.m., though it wasn’t clear what caused the accident.
“This happened upon landing at 5:15 this morning,” she said in an interview.
She said the four crew on board Flight KKE 4854 were taken to hospital with what she believed to be minor injuries.
Emergency Health Services spokesman Remo Zaccagna would only say that “patients were transported to hospital, but due to privacy laws cannot provide the nature of their injuries.”
The plane was sitting on a slight incline far off the runway and within about 50 metres from a fence that marks the perimeter of the airport boundary. Two of its engines appeared to be attached but were heavily damaged, while two other engines appeared to be sheared off completely.
The landing gear was not visible and the nose of the white aircraft sustained moderate damage, but the underside of the plane appeared to be cracked and heavily damaged.
Mangled debris was scattered behind the plane.
The airport activated its emergency operations centre and suspended all flights, but the main runway was reopened by 8 a.m.
“We did temporarily close the airfield, so both runways – the one that was impacted by this morning’s incident and also our main runway. We have since reopened our main runway but our flight schedules continue to be impacted,” said Rath Spicer.
She said there are delays in arrivals and departures.
“We’ve had flights diverted and delayed.”
The plane was reported to be travelling from Chicago to Halifax.
Several fire trucks and RCMP vehicles were surrounding the plane on what was a warm, misty day. It appeared that the plane had been sprayed with foam by one of the fire trucks, but there was no apparent sign of a fire.
An aluminum ladder trailed from a main door near the front of the aircraft that was open.
Chris Krepski, spokesman with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, said investigators were en route to the site and will examine the aircraft and the surrounding terrain, interview possible witnesses and crew members and take possession of the flight data recorders.
No one from SkyLease was immediately available for comment.
In August, Stanfield airport announced SkyLease Cargo was operating two flights a week for First Catch, a Chinese-owned seafood freight forwarding company.
It said SkyLease’s 747-400 aircraft had the capacity to carry up to 120 tonnes of Nova Scotia seafood to China.
A press release said it would make two flights weekly; the inaugural flight from Halifax was greeted with a water cannon salute on arrival in Changsha, the capital of China’s Hunan province.
The airport said it handled 34,051 tonnes of cargo in 2017.
It is at least the third serious incident at Stanfield in 15 years.
A passenger plane crashed during a blizzard on March 29, 2015, injuring 25 people. Air Canada Flight 624 bounced into the air and crashed near the runway threshold before careening along the tarmac. Federal investigators blamed approach procedures, poor visibility and lighting.
On Oct. 14, 2004, a British-based MK Airlines 747 went down just beyond the runway during takeoff, killing seven crew members. The Boeing aircraft dragged its tail before breaking up and bursting into flames in a wooded area. No one survived.
A lengthy investigation by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada found that crew fatigue and inadequate software training led the crew to enter incorrect information and caused the plane to set the throttles too low for a good takeoff.