Nova Scotia

Jet with damaged engine diverted in lightning storm

An Air Canada flight was diverted to Montreal early Thursday after leaving Halifax in the midst of a lightning storm, during which a passenger reported flames coming from an engine.

Passengers on Halifax-London flight 'freaking out'

An Air Canada flight was diverted to Montreal early Thursday after leaving Halifax in the midst of a lightning storm, during which a passenger reported flames coming from an engine.

Flight 860 and its 138 passengers took off for London, England, at about midnight. About 35 minutes later, there was a "malfunction" with the left engine and the pilot turned it off, Air Canada said in an email to CBC News.

Passenger Gwen Martin heard the loud bang.

"At that point the lights went off. The flight attendants were running around. I could tell at that point that it was a serious situation," said Martin, a CBC employee in Halifax.

Martin said the engine on the wing started spewing sparks and flames. She assumed it was a lightning strike.

"There was lightning all around us," she said. "The sky was lit up."

Martin sat terrified in her window seat at the front of the plane. Fear overcame other passengers too.

"They were definitely freaking out because they could see the flames from the engine," she said.

She said the flight attendants called it "a situation." The pilot announced they were diverting to Montreal but didn't confirm a lightning hit.

Wondered if plane should have taken off

Martin began to question whether the plane should have left Halifax in the first place.

"That was on everybody's mind," she said. "Should we have even taken off with lightning around us?"

The plane couldn't return to Halifax because of the bad weather. It landed safely in Montreal about 2½ hours after takeoff.

Isabelle Arthur, a spokeswoman for Air Canada, said the crew followed standard operating procedures.

"We understand that this event was unsettling for passengers but all crew members are fully trained to handle situations of this nature, including our flight attendants ensuring the cabin and passengers are safe for landing," she said in an email.

The plane is out of service while technicians examine the engine.

The thunder and lightning storm blew into Nova Scotia late Wednesday night and moved across the province early Thursday.

Nearly 50,000 homes and businesses were without power at the height of the storm.

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