February 11th in Aviation History

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Pacific Western Airlines Flight 314 was a scheduled Canadian domestic commercial passenger flight between Edmonton International Airport and Castlegar Airport with two stopovers, one at Calgary International Airport and one at Cranbrook International Airport. The flight was operated by a Boeing 737-200 aircraft. On the 11th of February, 1978, the Boeing 737 was carrying 44 passengers and 5 crew.

While landing for its second stop-over at Cranbrook Airport, the aircraft thrust reversers failed to stow back to normal position when the flight crew wanted to abort the landing. The crew was forced to abort the landing because there was a snowplow left on the runway and the aircraft had to avoid that.

The subsequent investigation was conducted by the Aviation Safety Investigation Division of Transport Canada. The investigation revealed that Calgary air traffic control was considerably in error in its calculation of the Cranbrook arrival time and the flight crew did not report while passing a beacon on final approach. Both these factors combined in a breakdown of communication and hence the aircraft had to abort the landing.

In the aborted landing, the thrust reversers did not go to their normal positions, which caused the aircraft to roll to one side and crash on the side of the runway. The impact and fire killed 42 of the occupants in the airplane. 7 survived with injuries.

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