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, and significantly impacting inbound and outbound passenger flights.
An update at the airport’s website, halifaxstanfield.ca, says the airfield has reopened but that flight schedules continue to be impacted. The site advises passengers to check with their airline for flight updates.
Air Canada is waiving change fees for passengers scheduled to fly in or out of Halifax Stanfield today.
Airport spokeswoman Theresa Rath Spicer said the SkyLease Cargo plane skidded off Runway 14 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. The airport had initially said five crew had been aboard the plane but later clarified the number.
The plane was sitting on a slight incline far off the runway and within about 50 metres of 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 were 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.
As well, the fuselage appeared to be bent about halfway along the length of the aircraft, where the outer skin was mangled. Mangled debris was scattered behind the plane.
An aluminum ladder trailed from an open main door near the front of the aircraft.
The airport had 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 were 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 surrounded the damaged plane on what was a warm, misty day.
District chief Gord West said the Halifax fire department responded in an assistance role to the airport’s fire unit.
“We respond with water supply and manpower,” West said. “There are no hydrants on the runways so we use tankers to shuttle water back and forth.”
He confirmed that there was no fire as a result of the crash and that crews had sprayed down the aircraft with foam.
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.
With files from Alison Auld and Keith Doucette