Seventy minutes after a mayday when a cargo of vegetables (peppers and flowers) set off a smoke alarm, Air France flight AF-733 made an emergency landing at Shannon Airport today at 9.55am. The flight was en route from Santo Domingo to Paris with 142 passengers and 14 crew when they diverted.
Emergency services, Shannon based Irish Coast Guard helicopter, the fire department, the RNLI lifeboat at Kilrush, and HSE ambulances were on standby as passengers disembarked via stairs. Passengers are being accommodated in the terminal as they wait for an alternative flight.
No fire or heat spots were detected aboard.
After AF447–the deadliest in the history of Air France–it is always alarming to hear of an issue aboard an AF trans-Atlantic flight. That Air France Rio de Janeiro-Paris flight crashed on June 1, 2009 and led to an exhaustive but successful multi-phase ocean search. On April 3, 2011, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution located the debris field.
While today’s thermal food was both alarming and anti-climactic, it was also a successful demonstration of contemporary aviation accident prevention. We are well familiar with how investigations of safety issues contribute to making flight safer, but rarely do we give credit to crew resource management. How the crew responds to the crisis, (even when it is just a sensitive alert that goes off), how well coordinated and cool-headed the crew is can mean the difference between life and death.
We don’t need to think of AF447, or even Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, to appreciate the integrated clockwork of a well-trained crew; but it does make us wonder if those crews were as well-trained as the one on this jet today, if either of those tragedies might have been prevented.