March 29, 2015 1:20 am
Updated: March 30, 2015 12:57 pm

Landing gear ripped off when Air Canada flight 624 hit antenna array: TSB

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WATCH ABOVE: Images captured Monday show the extent of the damage to Air Canada Flight 624 while investigators continued to piece together exactly how the plane crashed.

HALIFAX – An Air Canada flight heading from Toronto to Halifax crash landed after hitting an antenna array at Halifax Stanfield International Airport injuring 25 passengers, Transportation Safety Board investigators confirmed Sunday.

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TSB investigator Michael Cunningham told reporters Sunday evening the Air Canada flight struck an antenna array, which broke off the main landing gear causing the plane to skid for 1,100 feet after it hit the runway.

“At approximately 12:30 local time, early this morning, the aircraft touched down approximately 1,100 feet prior to the end of the runway,” Cunningham said. “At that point it hit an antenna array… this caused considerable damage to the aircraft and the main landing gear came off at that point.”

The plane’s nose and an engine detached and a wing was severely damaged in the landing.

Cunningham said investigators have started documenting the site and the complex investigation will involve a number of agencies including the RCMP, Halifax International Airport officials, Nav Canada, Transport Canada and Air Canada.

Investigators look at a structure believed to have been hit by Air Canada flight 1AC624 that crashed early Sunday morning during a snowstorm, at Stanfield International Airport in Halifax on Sunday, March 29, 2015. Air Canada says 25 people were taken to hospital.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

WATCH: Transportation Safety Board investigator Michael Cunningham answers questions about the AC flight 624 crash and states that the plane hard landed 1100 feet short of the runway

“The big thing for us is to get the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorders,” he said. “We have those secured and actually they’re already on the way to our engineering branch which is in Ottawa and preliminary analysis will begin as soon as possible.”

Cunningham said everyone on board the flight were fortunate to have survived.

“I’d say they’re pretty lucky,” he said.

The AC624 had 133 passengers and five crew members on board when it hit a power line and then skidded, leading to a mass power outage at the airport.

Earlier Sunday, Air Canada’s chief operating officer of Air Canada said the weather was safe for landing before the plane crashed.

WATCH: Daytime view of Air Canada flight 624 and TSB officials investigate the debris field including the landing gear which was torn off.

Klaus Goersch confirmed at a brief press conference at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport on the incident, which occurred during a snowstorm, could technically be described as a crash because the plane did not reach its gate. He said he had never heard of a similar accident occurring previously with Air Canada.

“It was safe to fly in this weather,” Goersch said. “The aircraft did circle for a period of time, but when the approach was initiated, the weather was at the approach minimums.”

Cunningham said he couldn’t rule out weather as a factor in the incident

Goersh said the plane did not discharge any fuel before attempting to land.

READ MORE: A look at Air Canada’s safety record

Air Canada said all but one of the passengers on Flight 624 who were injured had been released from hospital by early Sunday afternoon.

“All of us at Air Canada are greatly relieved that there have been no critical injuries as a result of this incident,” Goersch said.

“It’s obviously been very unsettling for our customers and their families, and we’ve been working very hard with them.”

He said both pilots had been released from hospital after suffering minor injuries, and neither will be suspended. He said he was not aware of whether the pilots had ever been involved in other crashes.

He also did not comment on whether the incident occurred due to pilot error or weather, and said it’s not yet known which pilot was in control at the time.

“We will co-operate and work with the authorities on the investigation of this incident,” he said. “At this point in time, we don’t know the cause and we won’t speculate on the cause of the incident.”

The airplane was an Airbus A320 model, the same type involved in the deliberate crashing of a Germanwings flight over France last week.

Air Canada said Sunday morning more of its management staff had arrived for support, but did not confirm how many.

HALIFAX HARD LANDING 2

Airport spokesperson Peter Spurway said the airport was closed to all traffic after the accident. He said the Airport Authority can’t comment on the RCMP or TSB investigation, it can only give updates on the runway conditions and airport operations.

“We don’t know if weather was a factor,” Spurway said. “Crews had been clearing snow all day.”

IN PHOTOS: Air Canada plane skids off runway at Halifax airport

Spurway said the plane was under control when it made contact with the runway.

ac624-front-view

Passenger Gordon Murray said he was calm despite the horrific experience.

“We just hit hard and things broke up,” he said. He added he feels fortunate to be alive considering what could have been.

“Just before we hit there was a big ball of light. It hit like a hard landing and we bounced and we skidded.”

Eleven-year-old Leon Yu wasn’t sure what was happening at the time, but recalls the plane “sliding everywhere.”

“A couple minutes later they just told us to get out of the plane,” he said.

Some passengers told Global News they saw an engine fall off during the landing.

“The airplane hit so hard the running gear all came off, both sets of wheels, then the engines got torn off,” passenger Randy Hall said.

“It was surreal,” Wayne Ezekial of St. Andrews, N.S., said. “It was almost like I was in a movie looking forward and my first concern was the plane was gonna start breaking apart and the second thing was it was gonna catch fire.”

Power was restored to the airport overnight and operations began resuming Sunday. Spurway said the runway where the plane crash-landed will be out of commission for a few days.

In a prepared statement, Transportation Minister Lisa Raitt thanked first responders for the “quick and decisive action.”

“Transport Canada continues to monitor the situation and the Transportation Safety Board is on scene. I understand that the airport will be reviewing their response to the incident and I look forward to the results‎. We will let the proper authorities determine the cause of this incident.”

The incident comes on the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Transportation Safety Board.

With files from Peter Hadzipetros, Mayya Assouad, Marieke Walsh, Global News

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