“It was a bit of a traumatic experience”
for the woman, who was travelling with a toddler, her husband
said last night.
The co-pilot was taken by ambulance to a
psychiatric ward after the plane and its 146 passengers landed
on Monday morning.
“At no time was safety compromised,” Air
Canada spokeswoman Isabelle Arthur said.
It was the second time an Air Canada
flight ended prematurely in recent days. This month, a jetliner
carrying 83 passengers from Victoria to Toronto made an
emergency landing in Calgary after turbulence threw it out of
It was also a reminder of the 1999
EgyptAir flight that plunged into the Atlantic. Black-box
recordings raised speculations that the crash occurred because
co-pilot Gameel Al-Batouti was suicidal.
Pilots don't automatically undergo
psychiatric assessments when they have their medical checkups, a
federal official said yesterday.
The doctors who do the checkups are
general practitioners approved by Transport Canada, said
Transport Canada spokeswoman Lucie Vignola.
A psychiatric evaluation is not done
unless the GP decides a pilot needs to see a specialist, she
Commercial pilots undergo medical
checkups every year, every six months if they are over 40, said
Captain Andy Wilson, president of the Air Canada Pilots
At Air Canada, pilots are checked by
company doctors, he said.
After his co-pilot's removal,
regulations would have required the captain to don his oxygen
mask and land at “the nearest suitable aerodrome,” said
Yvan-Miville Deschênes, a former flight controller.
“It's standard procedure. When there's
only one person left in the cockpit, he puts on an oxygen mask
in case the cabin depressurizes,” he said. “Continuing to London
would have been a security breach.”
Passenger Sean Finucane told
CBC News that the co-pilot, who said
“he just wanted to talk to God,” was yelling loudly but didn't
“When they tried to put his shoes on
later, for example, he swore and threatened people. … He was
swearing and asking for God, and was very, very distressed.”
His account matched those in the Irish
Independent and in the online forum flyertalk.com.
The Independent said the co-pilot, who
was “acting in a peculiar manner and was talking loudly to
himself,” was held down by the crew and by a member of the
“It was quite an experience! He was
being restrained in 12A and the entire mini-cabin could hear the
whole thing. Not for delicate ears,” a writer posted on
“The soldier and the doctors [who were
passengers] were great.”
The writer added that the flight crew
was “calm and professional throughout.” The pilots' union also
commended the crew for its handling of the incident.
AC 848 was supposed to land around 8:25
a.m. at London's Heathrow Airport. However, an hour before
arrival, controllers at Shannon Airport were told the flight was
diverted “because of illness with a crew member,” said spokesman
An employee at Ennis General Hospital,
near Shannon, said the crew member was taken to the acute
psychiatric care unit.
Passengers were given 15 euros for food
but were kept at the airport, said the man whose spouse sat near
the cuffed co-pilot.
“My wife was stranded there with a baby.
They wouldn't even allow her to take the stroller off the
In the afternoon, a crew from London
picked up the passengers, who arrived at Heathrow eight hours