Airport volunteer fired for talking to press

Witness to plane slipping off Ottawa runway violated rules


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Stephanie Nicholds said she thinks Airport Watch is overreacting and hopes the group will reconsider its decision. (CBC)


A volunteer with an organization that watches the Ottawa airport's perimeter has been dismissed after speaking with the media about a mishap last week when a plane overran the runway.

Stephanie Nicholds had been a volunteer for seven years with CYOW Airport Watch, the group of aviation enthusiasts that watches the airport's perimeter and reports suspicious activity to security officials.

Nicholds witnessed a United Airlines Express Embraer 145 arriving from Washington, D.C., on Wednesday afternoon that cleared the wet runway and wound up nose down in a grassy ditch about 150 metres from the landing strip.

The plane was carrying 36 people. Two crew members and one elderly passenger suffered minor injuries.

She spoke to media at the scene, saying the plane "was hydroplaning down the runway, and all of a sudden the airplane just ditched into the grass."

The next day Airport Watch chair Nelson Plamondon summoned her to a meeting, and told her she was no longer a member.

Plamondon said that after a similar incident two years ago volunteers were warned not to speak to the media. It's a policy he said he's been "constantly reminding" them of ever since.

"When this reoccurred, it was the second such incident, which made it much worse," said Plamondon.

A spokesperson for the Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport Authority said Nicholds is guilty of a "serious breach" of the rules, and said the airport demanded Airport Watch take what it called "corrective action."

The airport authority said any speculation about what may or may not have happened during the runway incident should be left for the Transportation Safety Board to determine.

Nicholds said she thinks the group is overreacting.

"I think they made a big mistake taking me off the watch," she said. "I just hope they can reconsider."





Congratulations and thanks to Stephanie Nichold for being the ONLY VOICE to tell the public what happened.

The plan was observed to touch down, past the mid point of the runway, a very wet runway at high speed, where hydroplaning was guaranteed under a formula that those pilots flying should have had in their heads from their training.

At that high speed, without any effective braking until it slowed down, the Embraer 145 was guaranteed to "all of a sudden, have its nose ditch down in the grass.

Stephanie Nichold is now most unlikely to ever again get this opportunity to observe an accident and get to be the only person in town to inform the public what happened.

She should now hold her head high and tell those stuffy idiots to get out of her life.

Thanks Stephanie!