Jump to content
NS VIA Fan

United '777 diversion to Goose Bay

Recommended Posts

There’s been some news reports the past couple of days regarding a United Airlines flight from Newark to Hong Kong that was diverted to Goose Bay, Labrador.  It started out as a medical emergency which should have only been a quick stopover but the aircraft went mechanical and it was over 14 hours before a replacement aircraft could be brought in.

 

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/20/us/united-flight-canada-grounded/index.html

 

Goose Bay Airport in Labrador is a former US and Canadian Air Force Base left over from the cold war era……with an 11,000’ runway, large ramp areas and hangers. Goose regularly sees transatlantic aircraft in to refuel but it does handle emergencies such as this United flight and an Air France A380 last year that blew an engine over the Atlantic.

 

Although the United flight was taking the Polar route to Hong Kong it was no where’s near the North Pole when the diversion occurred as some of the news reports led you to believe. Goose Bay is at 53.3N or about the same latitude as Dublin Ireland, Liverpool/Manchester UK, and Hamburg Germany… although it does have colder temperatures and the day of the diversion just happened to be one of the coldest days Goose has experienced in several years just like a lot of North America last weekend.

 

I’m in Goose Bay often for work. Here’s a few pictures (at a much warmer time of the year!)

 

 

30583480727_9fed6c1871_b.jpg

 

44610837815_bde8ac9b55_c.jpg

 

44610840625_ddd28dd0dd_c.jpg

 

44610840425_8d745d4d95_c.jpg

 

44610837085_1a4466a077_c.jpg

 

Besides the Air Force 5 Wing Goose Bay facilities….. there’s an attractive Civilian Terminal Building but with a capacity geared more to the Air Canada and Provincial Airlines regional aircraft it usually sees (not a wide-body load of passengers) along with the Twin Otter ‘bus’ service along the Labrador coast.

 

http://www.goosebayairport.com/

 

44610836065_0d046de24b_c.jpg

 

44610838895_a2608188eb_c.jpg

 

44610834585_8643e0c682_c.jpg

 

44610833875_bfb81738f4_c.jpg

 

44610832635_699787814b_c.jpg

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

44610832035_4461c40b53_c.jpg

 

44610831105_ed8b1c4746_c.jpg

 

44610830195_8c175eecaa_c.jpg

 

44610829715_cfe1bd6c92_c.jpg

 

45474105322_cd8a707334_c.jpg

 

 

There’s also a nice static display of aircraft that once used the base.

 

 

44610840025_acd77c3065_c.jpg

 

44610839935_c164f64cee_c.jpg

 

45474103992_5fb75f4fab_c.jpg

 

44610839445_090aa8a952_c.jpg

 

 

The town of Goose Bay-Happy Valley has a population of about 8,500….with several hotels but if they had to find rooms for a diverted widebody planeload of passengers…they’d be out of luck! I guess….in an emergency there’s still barracks available (better than nothing!) like those used by the German Air Force during flight training in Labrador. 

 

30583470157_afcef9de8f_c.jpg

 

 44610839175_436628a898_c.jpg

 

44610838225_dab33cb1a6_c.jpg

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
33 minutes ago, NS VIA Fan said:

It started out as a medical emergency which should have only been a quick stopover but the aircraft went mechanical and it was over 14 hours before a replacement aircraft could be brought in.

It still takes over 14 hours to send a recovery plane for an airline the size of United?  I thought they promised this wouldn't happen again after UA958.

UnitedHubHubGoose.PNG.fc78ae956f97c1e89f8915156d4618c6.PNG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

‘Armchair Airline Managers’ on a couple of the forums speculated that since the passengers were returning to EWR anyway….they could have sent at least one ‘737 for the passengers (it’s about 2 1/2 hrs from EWR to YYR) and it could have made two round trips to retrieve all in less time than the 14 hrs it took to find one ‘777.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Another option would have been for UA to ask AC to step in with an aircraft.  I can't speak to AC's fleet situation, but given that the two are in *A together, "venting" pax through an intermediate stop at YUL, YYZ, and/or YHZ would also be viable if equipment could be grabbed for that.  This all becomes a lot easier if the timing is overnight instead of midday.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Another option would have been for UA to ask AC to step in with an aircraft.  I can't speak to AC's fleet situation, but given that the two are in *A together, "venting" pax through an intermediate stop at YUL, YYZ, and/or YHZ would also be viable if equipment could be grabbed for that.  This all becomes a lot easier if the timing is overnight instead of midday.
AC might have had a Q400 in Goose but to send anything larger from YUL YYZ or YHZ....probably just as easy for UA to send an aircraft from EWR. It's only a little over a 2 hr flight to YYR

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Goose Bay (and Gander) airports were regularly used in the pre-jet days by commercial airlines for scheduled refueling stops for trans-Atlantic (particularly westbound) flights. When El Al Airlines began using long-range Bristol Britannia turboprops that could make the journey without the refueling stop, their advertising slogan was “no goose, no gander”

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Seems like KEF might have been a similar distance but with improved services and connections...

EWR-YYR.thumb.PNG.bdc9b1111a98782944d65c58c364d74d.PNG

 

EWR-GOH-KEF.PNG.6a18be461ff610d35359e78fe435e796.PNG

In the second image above GOH is merely a placeholder representing a rough estimate for where the aircraft was located when the decision was made to divert.

Just a random armchair theory, but perhaps this has something to do with whatever process determines YYR would be considered a preferred alternate.

Edited by Devil's Advocate

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 minutes ago, Devil's Advocate said:

Seems like KEF might have been a similar distance but with improved services and connections...

 

Perhaps, but at the time of the diversion, they were only expecting to offload an ill passenger and then continue on to HKG. The availability of connections and availability of lodging would not have been a factor at the time of the diversion. Assuming that adequate medical care is available in YYR, it would have been a logical place to set the plane down.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, fairviewroad said:

Perhaps, but at the time of the diversion, they were only expecting to offload an ill passenger and then continue on to HKG. The availability of connections and availability of lodging would not have been a factor at the time of the diversion. Assuming that adequate medical care is available in YYR, it would have been a logical place to set the plane down.

 

Also, it is possible that when they were starting the planning process they were another 100-200 miles south (depending on how quickly things escalated, decisions were made, etc.), which would have made YYR more logical earlier on.  Also, landing in Canada might present less problems with customs if things go sideways (not that Iceland is problematic as such in this respect).  All things which might make sense of this in a tossup situation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/23/2019 at 5:33 PM, fairviewroad said:

Perhaps, but at the time of the diversion, they were only expecting to offload an ill passenger and then continue on to HKG. The availability of connections and availability of lodging would not have been a factor at the time of the diversion. Assuming that adequate medical care is available in YYR, it would have been a logical place to set the plane down.

UA has apparently been favoring YYR over other alternates for years, presumably due to less expensive landing/parking/service fees.  That's not to say the captain is intentionally putting passengers at a disadvantage, but if the default alternate has limited services then the passengers could end up stuck on the plane for 14+ hours or sleeping in a barracks overnight.  EWR-HKG is a long flight so it seems reasonably likely the pilots were going to exceed the maximum duty time regardless.  After UA958 I would have thought they'd be a bit more prepared.

Edited by Devil's Advocate

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My dad was a reseracher at a German univerity for several years. When flying to the USA to attend conferences and such, they were supposed to book him onto the cheapest possible flight. Some clever guy in the travel departemnt found out that being a governmnet employee he had the right to fly on flights otherwise reserved for military personnel. I think either for free or very cheaply. He used to fly with the Luftwaffe and  through Goose Bay regularly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 minutes ago, Devil's Advocate said:

Looks like an Antonov An-124 to me.

Yep, thanks!

Goose Bay  44 — Antonov 124

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Gander, Newfoundland has a long history as a refuel and diversion airport also. There is a well received play on Bway right now about the hospitality shown to stranded passengers post 9-11.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/23/2019 at 9:01 AM, Devil's Advocate said:

It still takes over 14 hours to send a recovery plane for an airline the size of United?

Some times it takes a long time to realize that you're going to be broke for a long time. And then you may or may not have a 777 and entire crew that can be scrambled up there with enough duty day to complete such a trip.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
49 minutes ago, XHRTSP said:

Some times it takes a long time to realize that you're going to be broke for a long time. And then you may or may not have a 777 and entire crew that can be scrambled up there with enough duty day to complete such a trip.

That's a perfectly reasonable interpretation for the first major controversy involving UA and YYR.  This time around they should have recognized the likely reaction and either landed somewhere else or been extremely proactive in recovering their passengers.  Which is to say they should have erred on the side of overzealous recovery.  Instead they treated it just like any other random diversion.  For almost any other airline this would be an unacceptable situation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Since it was a medical emergency, why do you say it is not perfectly appropriate to land at the nearest airport with acceptable medical facilities? Nobody expected a malfunction of the doors when planning to depart.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, chakk said:

Since it was a medical emergency, why do you say it is not perfectly appropriate to land at the nearest airport with acceptable medical facilities? Nobody expected a malfunction of the doors when planning to depart.

Apparently the medical emergency was related to a passenger suffering a seizure and the first such event supposedly happened around 45 minutes into the flight.  At that point YYR was nowhere near the closest airport with acceptable medical facilities.  It's absolutely possible that United did nothing wrong in this situation, but they also have a history of leaving passengers stuck in YYR.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It appears that United is having a rethink of using Goose for emergencies:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/united-airlines-makes-changes-after-review-of-plane-stranded-for-12-hours-11549297751?shareToken=st5cdd4749d2f34c6cadcd683c40d4e937&ref=article_email_share

I understand there are rethinks in place with Canada's ICE/TSA agencies to make the terminal a secure area so that passengers can at least get off the plane, be fed, and "watered". 

I'm sure my "go to airline" has MMQB'd the incident to death. If they did not have a 772 and rested flight crews ready to evac the passengers, how about two 738's (they have ETOPS to fly over remote areas) - just to get  the PAX "outta there".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×