Reports of a fire aboard a plane that landed in Trail on Tuesday were extinguished by a Pacific Coastal spokesperson on Wednesday.
While some local media outlets jumped on the story of a fire on a plane, which led to further reporting by national news services, Spencer Smith, vice president of commercial services for Pacific Coastal Airlines quickly doused the media frenzy.
“There never was a fire,” he told the Trail Times Wednesday morning. “There were reports that the engine was on fire in flight, and this absolutely was not the case.”
Smith explained that the airplane landed and shut down as per standard procedure, with no indication of fire.
Passengers were in the middle of deplaning, when a person turned around and saw what he thought was fire and alerted the staff.
The flight crew immediately responded and deployed the fire suppression system.
“When you hear fire, the crew doesn’t go back to take a look. Staff will always error on the side of caution and immediately deploy what are essentially large fire extinguishers inside the plane, as they are all trained to do,” Smith explained.
He said what can happen during the shut down of a plane is that extra fuel can build up in the exhaust pipe and the excess that is shot out appears as flame.
“This cannot happen when the engine is running, it is all part of the shutdown process,” he said.
“That picture you saw on (websites) is not smoke at all, that plume is the large volume of released fire retardant that instantly shuts down a fire.”
Don Nutini, a member of the volunteer staff on duty at the airport at the time of the incident, said there was never a safety concern.
“All passengers were taken off the plane without incident,” he said.
“There was never any panic,” added Smith. “One of the last passengers getting off the plane forgot his chocolate milk on his seat, and wanted to go back in and get it.”
Nutini said he did not see the flame and things were under control before the ground crew could react.
“The flame was put out almost immediately by the fire suppression system in the plane.”
He did confirm that some members of the staff went to the hospital.
“Four members of staff were sent to hospital, as a precaution. It is part of our protocol, when exposed to chemicals in fire retardant,” he explained. “Everyone checked out fine.”
On Wednesday afternoon the volunteer ground crew, Pacific Coastal representatives and members of the Trail Regional Fire Department met to review procedures, which is normal following any incident large or small.
The fire department was not called to respond when the flame was spotted on Tuesday afternoon.
Currently, the plane is parked near the airport hangar, and all things appear to be business as usual at the airport.
The aircraft will remain there until the maintenance crew from Vancouver arrives to inspect the plane to determine if anything out of the ordinary caused flame burst. They will test the engine, and once all readings are normal, and no damage is detected, the plane will immediately be flown back to Vancouver, according to Smith.
The plane, a Saab 640A, had landed in Trail at around 4 p.m. and had 30 passengers on board.