After reviewing the flight data and navigational aids on board, First Air has fired two pilots who flew a Boeing 737 hundreds of kilometres off course during a routine flight from Rankin Inlet to Iqaluit.
“During the interviews, we learned the pilots did not follow our standard operating procedures designed to eliminate navigational errors,” a news release from First Air said.
The airline company said it interviewed the pilots and received reports from the cabin crew on board before making the decision to fire the two.
“Most importantly, we have learned that there was no immediate threat to the safety of the passengers and crew,” the release says.
First Air said passenger and crew safety have always been the company’s top priority, and they have taken this incident “very seriously.”
The company said it has reinforced procedures with all crew and dispatch staff and increased in-flight oversight using data monitoring tools.
First Air said it will share the results of its investigation with the Transportation Safety Board.
On March 31, Flight 955 left Rankin Inlet for Iqaluit with 19 passengers and four crew members on board.
Instead of flying to its destination, the plane flew north.
The pilots were relying on auto-pilot using GPS navigation when the crew noticed they hadn’t been handed off from air traffic control in Edmonton to Montreal.
After making contact with Montreal, the pilots reset their course and landed without incident in Iqaluit.
Maintenance crews on the ground found no equipment problems, and cleared the plane to continue flying.
The pilots were grounded while the investigation was underway.
Pilots' union says First Air rushed to judgment
Peter Black, chair of the First Air unit of the Air Line Pilots Association International, said in a statement that the union is "deeply disappointed" with the decision to fire the pilots "prior to a complete and thorough investigation of the incident."
“This rush to judgment has unfairly called into question the expertise and professionalism of a crew with more than 40 years of combined flight experience," Black said. "We will use all of the union’s resources to investigate this incident and support the crew.”