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Air Canada plane lands safely in Madrid after tire rupture, engine issue

An Air Canada Boeing 767 aircraft is parked at Barajas international airport after making a safe emergency landing in Madrid, Spain, Monday Feb. 3, 2020. Toronto-bound flight AC837 had left from the Spanish capital in the early afternoon on Monday but had to request an emergency return after one of its two engines was damaged and a tire ruptured during takeoff.
Image Credit: (AP Photo/G.W. Ortega)
February 03, 2020 - 6:00 PM

An Air Canada jet landed safely in Madrid Monday after engine trouble and a blown tire forced pilots to declare an emergency shortly after takeoff.

The Toronto-bound Boeing 767-300 carrying 128 passengers and eight crew touched down safely after circling southeast of Adolfo Suarez-Barajas airport for four hours "to use up fuel and lighten the aircraft for landing," Air Canada said.

The engine issue occurred shortly after takeoff in Madrid, the airline said in a statement. "A tire also reportedly ruptured on take-off, one of 10 on this model of aircraft."

A spokesman for Spanish airport operator AENA said the pilot radioed the tower about 30 minutes after takeoff to request a slot for emergency landing.

"Our pilots are fully trained for this eventuality," Air Canada said in an email. "Nonetheless, an emergency was declared in order to obtain landing priority."

Spain's Defence Ministry said an F-18 fighter jet was dispatched from a military airport near the Spanish capital to evaluate the damage done to the landing gear of Air Canada Flight 837.

A spokesman for Enaire, Spain's air navigation authority, said the plane's landing gear did not fold up properly after taking off and that a piece of it may have damaged part of one of the engines.

The officials were not authorized to be named in media reports.

Benoit Gauthier, a retired Air Canada pilot, said defective wheels are "very rare...I was with Air Canada 37 years, and I think we ended up having a flat tire once."

He said the tire rupture and engine problem are "most likely" connected.

"When a tire ruptures on takeoff, there's always a remote chance that it explodes and some part of the rubber ends up in the engine," he said in a phone interview.

The engine issue likely triggered the return to airport, while using up fuel makes for a lighter load on a plane that lacks the power of its second turbine, Gauthier said.

"If you've lost an engine, you don't want to cross the Atlantic. You want to land," he said.

Guido Fioravantti, whose father was on the plane, confirmed the safe landing from New York.

"Landed safely, everything is ok!" Fioravantti said.

All passengers will be provided with hotel rooms and rebooked on other flights, Air Canada said.

Gilles LeVasseur, a professor of business and law at the University of Ottawa, said Air Canada should review safety protocols for the tires and their manufacturer to avoid future ruptures.

Landing gear malfunctions can pose a grave challenge for the pilot. In 2005, a JetBlue pilot circled for hours to burn off fuel as he grappled with front wheels that were stuck in a sideways position, culminating in a harrowing touchdown that saw the nose tires ignite along the runway at Los Angeles International Airport. No one was hurt.

Spain's El Mundo newspaper's website published audio it said featured the plane's pilot explaining to the passengers the need to return to Madrid because a wheel had been damaged during the takeoff.

"Because we are a bit too heavy we have to get rid of fuel before being able to land," the voice can be heard saying in Spanish.

Madrid residents posted videos online showing a plane flying unusually low over the Spanish capital's centre and suburbs.

It was the second incident of the day at Madrid's international airport, the busiest in the country. Earlier on Monday, the airport closed for more than an hour due to the reported sighting of drones in the vicinity.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2020.

— With files from The Associated Press

Companies in this story: (TSX:AC)

News from © The Canadian Press, 2020
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