Canadian pilot awarded for \'dead-stick\' landing

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Canadian pilot awarded for 'dead-stick' landing

Canadian pilot awarded for 'dead-stick' landing
23 August 2002

MONTREAL: A Canadian pilot who astounded the aviation world by gliding his stricken jetliner, with 304 people on board, to a safe landing on an island in the Atlantic Ocean, has been given a special flying award.

The Air Line Pilots Association, the union representing some 66,000 pilots from Canada and the United States, gave its Superior Airmanship award to Air Transat pilot Robert Piche and his first officer Dirk De Jager at its annual banquet in Washington on Thursday.

"The spirit of airmanship that is involved here is the amazing feat of taking of airplane that lost both its engines at 35,000 feet and piloting it... 70 miles and making a precision pinpoint landing on a tiny speckled island," the association's spokesman, John Mazor, told Reuters.

Piche, a married father of three, became a national hero in Canada and made headlines around the world on August 24, 2001, when he brought a Lisbon-bound Airbus 330 to a safe, "dead-stick" landing on the Azores after a fuel leak left the jetliner's engines dead over the Atlantic.

Diverting to a military airstrip, Piche and De Jager brought the heavy aircraft through a harrowing 18-minute gliding descent and wrestled it to a grinding halt on the tarmac, blowing eight of its 12 tires.

Less than a dozen of the 291 passengers were treated for minor injuries, most inflicted as they evacuated the plane.

"The good news is that because of the superior airmanship of the crew they all landed safely," Mazor said.

But not all has been good news.

Portuguese authorities are scheduled to produce a final report on their inquiry into the incident before the end of the year. A preliminary report found a fuel line on the right engine had failed, possibly after rubbing or banging against another pipe.

Air Transat was fined C$250,000 by Canadian transport authorities for the faulty installation of a hydraulic pump in the right engine. The airline disputes any link between the hydraulic pump problem and the fuel leak.

Passengers aboard Flight 236 have launched a class action lawsuit against Air Transat.

Piche, who has said he was just doing his job bringing the aeroplane down safely, has been on personal leave from the charter airline since March. He plans to get back in the cockpit in coming weeks.

"I became more aware of the changes in my life after this incident," he said in an interview with a local newspaper.

"I needed (the break) to fully live through all this," he said.

The award marks a reversal of fortune for 50-year-old Piche. The former bush pilot spent nearly two years in a US jail in the 1980s after he was busted with 53 bags of marijuana after landing a small Piper Aztec on a Georgia airstrip.
By netchicken: posted on 18-11-2002

Ha! What a great story! Not only did he save all of those people, he was a convicted drug smuggler to boot! Maybe thats why he is such a great pilot...
By William One Sac: posted on 19-11-2002

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