It all happened quickly.
About five and half hours into the
flight, Robson awoke to the sound of many footsteps
hurrying to the front of the plane. It was about 2 a.m.
Monday, Toronto time.
"Look, we've got a really serious
medical emergency on board," a concerned flight
attendant told him as he walked to the front of the
plane and was told to use the facilities at the back of
There was a call for a medical person
from among the passengers. "We have a medical emergency,
the flight services director called out on the plane,"
recalled Robson, a global training adviser for Imperial,
who was in sitting in the centre row of business class
about 4 metres from the co-pilot as he was restrained by
the crew on the floor outside the galley.
"He was clearly someone not in control
of his senses," said Robson.
The captain came on and said the flight
was being diverted to Shannon Airport.
"I saw the crew all around a man on the
floor outside the galley (just behind the cockpit). It
appeared they were restraining him," said Robson. "He
was looking around. He was swearing and yelling."
Others on board said they heard the
co-pilot say "he wanted to talk to God ... that the
plane was low on fuel," recalled Robson.
Shortly after the plane landed, Robson
recalled, "The aisles were full of officials."
At one point, three members of the
Shannon Airport police, five members of the Irish Garda
and two paramedics had come on board to investigate the
disturbance before the co-pilot was escorted off the
Passengers disembarked and waited about
seven hours before another flight crew arrived from
Heathrow to fly them to London on the same plane, said
During that time, business class patrons
were given 20 euros for food and economy class members
were given 15 euros, he said.
Robson, who is constantly taking
international business flights, said the incident would
not deter him from flying Air Canada again. "Absolutely.
They were gracious and sensitive. At no point were we
scared," he said.
However, Robson did think it curious
there was no mention of compensation for the
inconvenience and delay passengers suffered.
Other passengers on the flight say they
were stunned when they found out the "disruptive" man on
board was actually the co-pilot of the plane.
"I heard him swearing and yelling," said
Jessica Schneider, who was travelling with her
9-month-old daughter. "I thought it was a passenger, I
had no idea that it was a co-pilot.
"We didn't know what was going on, " she
said, adding she only found out the man had been the
co-pilot after talking to family members in Toronto.
Schneider was one of 136 passengers on
Air Canada Flight 848 that was forced to make an
emergency landing in Shannon after the co-pilot became
ill on board.
Passengers were first alerted to the
emergency when an announcement was made asking for help
from a doctor or nurse halfway through the seven-hour
Less than an hour from landing, the man
was moved into a seat in the first row of the economy
class section, said Schneider, who was sitting a number
of rows behind the man. "I could definitely hear him,
and he was yelling at people trying to help him as
"Our member was taken to hospital, where
he is being treated," said Capt. Andy Wilson, president
of the Air Canada Pilots Association, in a news release.
A report by the Irish Independent
newspaper said the co-pilot needed psychiatric care.
When paramedics came to take him off the
plane, Schneider said the man appeared to be resistant
and was swearing. "He wasn't co-operating with them, he
didn't want to go with them."
He was eventually taken off the plane on
a stretcher, she said.
A source at Mid West Region Hospital, in
the town of Ennis just north of Shannon, confirmed last
night that the co-pilot had been admitted and was in the
acute unit at the hospital.
Other than the inconvenience of having
to stop over at a small airport for seven hours,
Schneider said none of the passengers appeared to be too
worried by the outburst or the incident.
"They never told us the nature of the
problem," she said. "Which is probably a good thing,
since people don't really like to hear that their pilot
has gone crazy.
"I am just glad that it ended well. ...
It's scary to think what could have happened."
Chagnon Denis, a spokesperson with the
International Civil Aviation Organization, said that
even though the incident took place outside Canadian
airspace, an investigation would take place by the
airline and Canadian authorities. Transport Canada
spokesperson Lucie Vignola said the agency will be
interviewing the flight crew and the airline, but said
it appeared that proper procedures were followed.
Fitzpatrick said Air Canada would do an
internal evaluation to "see what could be learned from