News Plane incidents — 04 May 2017

A PACKED tourist plane was involved in a terrifying air drama over the Mediterranean when it suddenly plummeted some 18,000 feet before making an emergency landing in Crete.

Panicking passengers claimed the aircraft’s engines had stalled, leading to the rapid loss of altitude, but it was reported later that the crew had initiated an emergency descent due to a problem with cabin pressure.

The Nordwind Airbus A321-200, registration VP-BGH performing flight N4-1606 had climbed to 25,000 feet when the problem arose, and the aircraft fell to 7,000 feet over the Mediterranean before returning to Heraklion airport some 40 minutes after departure.

The incident follows severe turbulence on an Aeroflot flight this week when two dozen passengers suffered injuries including broken bones after being “spun around like in a washing machine” as a Boeing 777 was preparing to land in Bangkok.

A shaken passenger on the Nordwind plane, bound for St Petersburg, wrote on social media: “Friends, we nearly crashed.

“To be more precise, we fell about three kilometres.”

In fact, The Aviation Herald reported an 18,000 ft drop – almost 5 km – and passengers said that despite reported cabin pressure problems, oxygen masks were not released.

Professor Dmitry Gavra, from St Petersburg, described “unpleasant minutes” before the pilot “levelled up” and “managed to approach Crete again at low altitude”.

Passengers claimed the aircraft's engines had stalled, leading to the rapid loss of altitude

Passengers claimed the aircraft’s engines had stalled, leading to the rapid loss of altitude

Children were crying and suffered severe ear pains due to the sudden loss in altitude, he said.

He described the drama as a rapid loss of altitude without turbulence – sudden, and for quite a while, it didn’t feel like turbulence.

“I am particularly sorry for children – the kids had pain in their ears,” he said.

“Those suffering from heart conditions had problems with hypertension…. ”

For many the shock came after the drama was over, he said.

“After landing people started panicking.”

The professor claimed “the pilot made no announcement to the cabin – while devices for the crew were saying ‘stall’.”

He complained there was no attempt by the attendants to announce safety instructions or “calm people down” which might have reduced the “panic”.

“When it became clear we would land, no one told us where we were landing,” he said.

“After landing… emergency services and police arrived, but the crew and pilot kept silence while people continued to feel disoriented and were suffering after-shock panic.”

Another aircraft was sent to take the passengers back to Russia while the ten year old airbus was checked for technical problems.

A woman passenger told how the plane “was close to crashing”.

Vitaly Kvan said his wife was on board and told him that after the plane plummeted “children were crying” while adults were singing songs to calm them.

A woman passenger said: “We took off and after some 20 minutes we began to fall down.

“We were told it was the loss of pressurisation. Nobody was hurt, only scared.

“We landed and they gave us water and sandwiches.”

A spokesman at Pulkovo airport in St Petersburg said: “We know that the flight of Nordwind aviation company from Heraklion was cancelled. Passengers are being brought back on another plane.”

Nordwind had not issued a statement on the drama.

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