Saskatoon

Man shocked after Saskatoon-bound flight avoids hitting smaller plane on runway

A frequent traveller says he felt a recent flight to Saskatoon narrowly avoided disaster but an airline says missed approaches are common and can happen for several reasons.

WestJet says missed approaches not unusual and can happen for several reasons

Go-arounds are not an everyday occurrence but they aren't uncommon either. Regardless, Desmond Short was left reconsidering his travel options after a flight to Saskatoon. (Tory Gillis/CBC)

A frequent traveller says he felt a recent flight to Saskatoon narrowly avoided disaster but an airline says missed approaches are common and can happen for several reasons. 

Desmond Short, who estimates he has flown more than 100 times, said he was left in shock after flying back to Saskatoon from Winnipeg on a WestJet Encore flight Friday because the plane had to pull out of its landing suddenly.

"I watched and the landing gear went down, which means we're about three or four minutes from landing and everything was going fine," he said, recounting the moments before the plane was due to land.

"Just as I figured we were going to touch down, the plane accelerated and the pilot pulled us out of the landing." 

Short remembered the pilot saying there could be gusts of wind, so he figured the sudden bail out was because of that. Then, the pilot's voice rang out over the intercom. 

According to Short he said something like: "Sorry about that folks, we had to pull out. A training aircraft pulled right out onto the runway."

After hearing that, Short said he was in shock. 

Westjet says whenever this happens, it's not a case of a potential disaster averted but a routine manoeuvre on the pilots' part. Runway or weather conditions can be reasons why the pilots would opt for a go-around.

While go-arounds are not an everyday occurrence, they're not exactly uncommon either. Regardless of their frequency, the incident still left Short shook.

"It didn't really hit me until the next day that I almost died," he said. 

He gave kudos to the pilots for handling the situation in a way he deemed very professional. Instead, he blames the plane on the runway.

Not an incident: TSB

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) confirmed to CBC News there was a plane on the runway blocking the WestJet flight's landing, but said it did not meet the standards of being a reportable incident because the two planes maintained enough distance between each other. 

The TSB said it was a Cessna 152 that had failed to vacate the runway.

Short's account of having to pull up suddenly and circle around is also corroborated by the flight path, which shows a circle around the city and a dip and then peak of altitude. 

A photo showing the flight path of the plane Short was on that evening. (Flight Aware)

A WestJet spokesperson agreed with the TSB. 

"This would not be classified as a 'near miss.' The pilot would have been able to see the aircraft on the runway giving them plenty of time to make the decision for a go-around, resulting in a normal and safe landing later," a spokesperson said in an email.

As for Short, he told CBC he's reconsidering flying again. He said he's still in a bit of shock. 

"I don't know how many people have actually taken it as far to realize that if we had hit that plane, [there's a] good chance none of us would be able to tell any stories," he said.

"I'm in the safety industry, so I know that companies don't release every time they have a near miss either, it's just that this one is catastrophic."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emily Pasiuk

Reporter/Associate Producer

Emily Pasiuk is a reporter and associate producer for CBC Edmonton. She has filmed two documentaries, and reported in Saskatchewan before coming to Edmonton. Tips? Ideas? Reach her at emily.pasiuk@cbc.ca.

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