More than 1,300 flights arrive or depart from Toronto Pearson International Airport every day, and while most of them move passengers without incident, near-disasters often play out quietly between pilots and air traffic controllers.
A March 11 flight from Kelowna to Toronto averted catastrophe when the Air Canada Airbus A321 had to abort a landing at Pearson due to a landing gear malfunction, with limited fuel burning away and urgency growing by the minute.
An account of the flight was published by You Can See ATC, a YouTube channel offering a window into the world of air traffic controllers and the challenges they face every day.
Flight #AC19 departed Kelowna International Airport bound for Toronto on March 11 with 194 passengers and crew aboard, but encountered issues on approach to Pearson International Airport, when the flight crew was unable to lower the aircraft’s landing gear.
After performing a go-around, the plane climbed to 3,000 feet and began travelling north, upon which time pilots informed ground controllers that the flight only had roughly 30 minutes of fuel remaining, declaring PAN-PAN, an urgency signal issued when an aircraft is in need of assistance and that the situation is one of urgency.
Due to the overlapping fuel and landing gear issues, the flight crew requested the deployment of emergency vehicles on the runway as a precaution.
The tower then cleared the flight to land at Runway 05 with emergency vehicles on standby.
Luckily, crews were eventually able to manually extend the landing gear on the second approach, and the plane touched down at Pearson with just 16 minutes of fuel remaining.