Dramatic return flight from Cuba for Caraquet couple
A Caraquet couple had quite a scare last week when their flight from Santa Clara, Cuba, began shaking hard on takeoff. And then the pilot announced a rear tire on the landing gear had blown and the plane would have to make an emergency landing.
Bernard and Josette Albert were on their way home to New Brunswick, via Montreal, last Wednesday, after an 11 day-vacation.
They were sitting on the right side of the plane when, the shaking started.
"Oh! Il y a quelque chose de wrong," Albert told Radio-Canada.
"It could not be a normal thing," he said later in an interview in English.
However, even after the pilot announced a tire had blown, he said the passengers didn't seem very concerned.
"Ah, it's a blowout, OK," he said.
Speaking to CBC News, Albert said the worry didn't really set in until the Sunwing pilot announced — about 15 to 20 minutes after take off — there would be an emergency landing in Varadero, a Cuban resort town.
The pilot then explained the emergency landing procedure for the 190 passengers.
He said there wasn't a lot of panic, but some people cried, especially as some families were split up and not sitting together, but the crew communicated what they needed to know.
"They explained everything and we were hoping for the best," he said.
The plane circled Varadero airport about four times, said Albert.
Before landing, passengers were told officials at the Santa Clara airport had viewed the tire debris from their takeoff and cleared the plane for landing.
He said the landing took longer than usual since he assumed the plane's braking ability was affected, but the plane did not tilt and stopped well ahead of the end of the runway.
"The landing was not as bad as the departure," Albert said. "So we were quite surprised, and it was a good ending for us."
On arrival, there were emergency responders waiting and Albert said firefighters sprayed foam at the plane's remaining tires.
He estimates they waited on the plane about half an hour before being guided out and buses arrived to ferry the passengers to the terminal.
At the Varadero airport, the passengers applauded the pilot's nerves of steel, Albert said. The pilot who made the dramatic landing, according to Cuban media, was Vicky Earks.
Albert said it took 7 buses to take all of the passengers to the resort and by that time it was 10 p.m. local time.
He said the airline had made arrangements for the resort's buffet to stay open later to accommodate them, though, and they were given rooms for overnight.
"Everybody was so happy that the landing was good so nobody was complaining," he said.
The next day, buses took the passengers back to the airport for a new flight to Montreal.
He said after the emergency landing the previous day, some passengers said they didn't want to take a plane again, but that evening they had discussed how it wasn't so bad.
"We were already thinking about next year's vacation," Albert said.
CBC has requested comment from Sunwing Airlines.