August 8, 2007
Air Canada Jazz Captain Michael Nelson Receives ALPA’s Superior Airmanship
Surrey, BC Pilot Recognized for Superior Airmanship Skills Exhibited during Emergency Landing
WASHINGTON—The Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA) will recognize Air Canada Jazz (ACJ) Capt. Michael Nelson with the ALPA Superior Airmanship Award for his outstanding effort in assisting the landing of ACJ Flight 8205, a CRJ 200 regional jet providing service from Vancouver International Airport to Prince George Airport Authority on Nov. 21, 2006.
As flight 8205 attempted to land at the Prince George Airport on a snowy November afternoon, the visibility dropped to 3/8 of a mile—below the legal minimum—forcing the crew to declare a missed approach. Flying a missed approach, in a snowstorm, in a mountainous area is demanding enough. But as First Officer Paul Cafouros tried to retract the aircraft’s flaps to a more streamlined position for the climb away from the airport, the pilots got a nasty surprise—the flaps would not retract.
The pilots now had to climb through the snowy skies to a safe altitude in an airplane burdened with an amount of aerodynamic drag intended only for slowing the airplane for a safe descent and landing. With the locked in position at maximum extension, they were also burning fuel at an astonishing rate—putting additional pressure on the pilots to come up with a quick solution to their predicament.
The pilots decided to fly to Fort St. John, British Columbia after consulting with all of their available resources. It was one of the closest airports around that also offered a precision approach, good weather, favorable tail winds, and familiar surrounding terrain. Capt. Nelson declared an emergency on the air traffic control frequency, enabling Cafouros to pull off a single-opportunity landing without other air traffic interference.
After briefing the passengers and the flight attendant, the pilots successfully landed at the Fort St. John Airport with little fuel to spare. During the landing, the fuel gauges showed only about 550 pounds of fuel remaining in the tanks—perhaps 7 or 8 minutes worth at the high thrust setting they had been forced to use because of the immobile flaps.
“The actions of the pilots of Air Canada Jazz Flight 8205 underscore the importance of a trained, experienced flight crew ready to act decisively at a moment’s notice,” said ALPA President Capt. John Prater. “Capt. Nelson’s situational awareness, informational gathering, and quick decision-making capabilities helped avert what could have been a tragedy.”
“If they had taken any extra time to sort the situation out, they very well may have used up the few minutes they had left,” said Air Canada Jazz Master Executive Council Vice Chairman Rod Lypchuk. “Their actions exemplify all that is expected of a professional ALPA pilot.”
This award will be presented on August 9 at ALPA’s 53rd Annual Air Safety & Security Week and Awards Banquet in Washington, D.C. ALPA will also honor Nelson’s colleague, First Officer Paul Cafouros, with a Superior Airmanship Award for the event.
Founded in 1931, ALPA represents more than 60,000 pilots at 41 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at www.alpa.org for more information.
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CONTACT: Pete Janhunen, Linda Shotwell, Molly Martin, (703) 481-4440