Cargo plane goes off runway at Halifax airport, 4 sent to hospital

The airfield at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport was briefly closed early Wednesday morning after a cargo plane went off the runway during landing at around 5 a.m.

The four crew members on the Boeing 747-400 SkyLease cargo aircraft, which was arriving from Chicago, IL, were taken to hospital with minor 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.

A statement from the airport says the incident happened at the end of Runway 14/32 during the plane’s scheduled landing. The airport activated its emergency plan, while RCMP, Halifax Regional Police, Halifax Fire and EHS also responded.

“The airfield has been closed temporarily. There will be no flight arrivals and departures until further notice,” the statement read.

By 8 a.m., the main runway had reopened, but delays in arrivals and departures are expected.

Passengers were asked to check with their airlines on the status of their flights before heading out to the airport.

As well, Old Guysborough Road has been closed to local traffic between Oldham Road and Grove Road as part of the RCMP’s investigation into the incident. Traffic is being redirected in the area.

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.

READ: A look at the Air Canada Flight 624 incident as report set to be released

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.

– With files from The Canadian Press

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