'Fumes event' forced British Airways flight to divert to Iqaluit, pilot says

The pilot of a British Airways flight that had to divert to Iqaluit on Thursday evening en route to Calgary, says it was a "fumes event" that forced them to land.

The British Airways Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner was diverted to the Nunavut capital Wednesday evening. Passengers and crew were forced to spend the night in Iqaluit.

An airline spokesperson said Wednesday's flight, BA103, was diverted to Iqaluit at around 7 p.m. because of a "technical fault" with the aircraft. The flight was coming from London, U.K. The airline's representative said the decision to land in Iqaluit was precautionary.

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"If you have a know problem, deal with it. If it's an unknown problem, it's best be safe than sorry," said Capt. Rich Dunn.

Dunn, a pilot for 28 years, said they had suspicions that there was an issue between Greenland and Iqaluit, and then they made the decision to make a "hard left."

"The decision was a pretty obvious one for us. Let's get this thing on the ground, just so the engineers can get a look at it."

He said the priority was the passengers, but noted that the crew has been amazing, as have the air traffic controllers and ground crew in Iqaluit.

'Everybody has been so brilliant'

"They were fantastic," said passenger Anne Graham about the crew on the flight.

The 78-year-old was sick on the plane and said the crew did everything they could.

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"I don't think I could've got through it without them, to be quite honest," she said.

"Everybody has been so brilliant. They really have. I mean, this happened without any warning, at all. Everybody was catered for."

Graham said she slept on a mattress in an office on Wednesday night, which she appreciated.

Iqaluit's airport opened a new $300-million terminal last year. It's eight times the size of the original building. The city has a population of about 7,700.

A second British Airways flight landed in Iqaluit late Thursday morning.

A British Airways spokesperson said Thursday's flight will depart as "quickly as possible," and that airline engineers would carry out an investigation into what happened Wednesday.

According to the British Airways' online flight status monitor, the new flight is scheduled to land in Calgary at 3:25 p.m.

As for his first trip to the Arctic, Dunn said he didn't pack for the cool weather, but praised the city.

"It's absolutely gorgeous and you've got some wonderful people here. Thank you very much for the hospitality."

With files from Nick Murray