…makes U-turn to CJIA
…passengers describe “horrifying” experience as plane loses cabin pressure mid-air
Just days after an American Airlines flight had to be diverted because of runway issues at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), another flight had to abort its transit after encountering technical difficulties in mid-air.
This publication understands that the American Airlines (AA) flight left CJIA on Friday at about midnight on its way to Miami. However, the flight experienced a drop in cabin pressure, leaving some passengers severely affected.
One passenger, who spoke to this publication on the condition of anonymity, described the experience as a horrifying one.
“When the cabin pressure issue developed, the pilot advised us that we’re going to travel to Trinidad and that (Piarco) is large enough to accommodate an easy landing with the amount of fuel we had,” the passenger explained.
According to the passenger, when that information was communicated to dispatch, they said he should return to Georgetown. “But in his effort to get back here, he calculated that he would not have been able to burn enough fuel, so we were in the air for a while. It was extremely hot while in there. They offered water and ice, but it was a very horrifying experience. Lots of prayers were said”.
Meanwhile, another passenger interviewed by this newspaper related that the airplane’s cabin started to really heat up at approximately 10,000 feet in the air. She noted that the original plan was to divert from their direct pathway to Miami, to Trinidad.
“From the time it took off, I knew something was wrong. As we started ascending and we reached 10,000 feet, it started getting hot. The pilot said we’re going to go to Trinidad and get it fixed. I looked at my map and realised that we were turning back and coming back to Guyana”.
“But we didn’t just come back to Guyana. We had to burn the fuel. To land with all that weight and bags, we had to burn the fuel. So we were circling and circling for two hours. For me, I’m happy we got safely on the ground”.
In cases of emergencies, this publication understands that fuel can be jettisoned from the aircraft or a pilot will simply circle a given area, in order to get rid of fuel, reduce the weight of the plane and facilitate a smooth landing.
It was only on Thursday that another American Airlines flight was forced to divert from originally landing at CJIA, going all the way to Trinidad to land. According to reports, CJIA’s lighting system for its runway experienced a failure, forcing the airport to deploy temporary lights.
A senior airport official had explained to Guyana Times that the runway light cables are usually ran underground but because of the ongoing extension works, temporary cables are being used. These, it was noted, were run to the extreme ends of the runway.
“That is just a temporary arrangement but when the runway is extended fully, (the cables) will go back down underground as it would normally be. The temporary cable got loose, it got slack and that caused the lights to go off physically and we had to use the portable lights,” the official said.
Nevertheless, the airport management assured in the missive on Friday that the portable runway lights that were used complied with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards.
This allowed for the departure of the Suriname Airways flight shortly after midnight and the arrival of Caribbean Airlines flight BW 605 from Port of Spain around 02:12h on Friday.
However, Thursday night’s incoming American Airlines flight was diverted to Trinidad, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded in Piarco International Airport in Port-of-Spain and at the airport in Guyana.
Passengers who were on the diverted flight complained of being left at the Trinidad airport for hours with little to no word from the flight crew or airline representatives. The same plights were experienced by passengers scheduled to depart Guyana with that same flight.
“I can’t comment on the decision taken by American Airlines (to divert) but our runway was operational,” the official contended.
CJIA has since assured that the main runway lighting system has since been repaired for operations. According to the official, measures were also put in place to prevent a reoccurrence of Thursday’s incident.
Meanwhile, efforts by this newspaper to obtain a comment from American Airlines on the issues with their aircraft were futile.