Release #06.ASF2
July 27, 2006

Montreal Pilots Honored with ALPA Superior Airmanship Award

WASHINGTON, D.C. --- Captain Martin Gauthier and First Officer Benoît Loiselle, both Air Transat pilots, are being recognized with Superior Airmanship Awards from the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA). On March 6, 2005, the pilots safely landed Air Transat Flight 961, an Airbus A310 on which the rudder ripped off while flying at 35,000 feet. The award will be presented on July 27 in Washington, D.C. during the Association’s 2006 Air Safety Forum and Awards Banquet.

“On our 75th anniversary, we not only celebrate ALPA’s contributions to aviation safety, but also the skill, experience, and expert airmanship of the line pilots who safely transport passengers and cargo around the world every day. Capt. Gauthier and F/O Loiselle piloted Air Transat Flight 961 superbly, and their actions on that day are a credit to them and to the piloting profession,” said ALPA President Duane E. Woerth.

On the morning of March 6, 2005, Air Transat Flight 961, providing A310 service from Varadero, Cuba, to Quebec City, leveled off at 35,000 feet just south of the Florida Keys. Two hundred sixty-one passengers and nine crew members were aboard. Shortly after reaching cruise altitude, the pilots heard a loud bang and felt strong vibrations. Capt. Gauthier disconnected the autopilot and the airframe vibration stopped.

After consulting with Air Transat’s dispatch office in Montreal, the pilots returned to Varadero, where the weather was calm and clear. Everything appeared normal until F/O Loiselle conducted an external inspection of the aircraft, during which he found that the airplane was missing its rudder. While the accident remains under investigation, it is clear that Capt. Gauthier and F/O Loiselle performed superbly.

Capt. Gauthier lives in Laval, Quebec. He has been a captain with Air Transat since 1996. F/O Loiselle lives in Val Morin, Quebec. He joined Air Transat in 1988 as an L-1011 professional flight engineer.

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union, representing 62,000 pilots at 40 airlines in the United States and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at

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ALPA Contact: Doug Baj, (703) 481-4456