Reports are breaking of an American Airlines flight forced down in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, according to a report from Global News. The report alleges that paramedics with stretchers and a backboard rushed toward the plane the moment it touched down, landing at St. John’s International Airport at 8:15 p.m. EST; 9:45 p.m. local time.
American Flight 206 from Miami, bound to Milan, was allegedly forced down after encountering extreme turbulence, and witnesses on site report seeing three injured passengers being taken from the plane – a Boeing 767, according to CBC.
The airline has not responded to requests for comment; the flight was known to have 192 passengers and 11 crew members on board. At least four ambulances and a fire truck have been spotted on the tarmac.
One ambulance remained with the plane an hour after landing.
Update no.1: An American Airlines spokesperson, Kent Powell, indicated that the flight “briefly encountered severe turbulence.” The seatbelt light was on at the time.
“Three flight attendants and four passengers were transported to a local hospital for further evaluation. We are taking care of our passengers and crew, and we are working on next steps to get them safely to their destination.”
CBC is reporting that the remaining crew and passengers are being processed through Canadian customs and will remain at the St. John’s Delta Hotel overnight; American Airlines is showing on their website that Flight 206 will leave for Milan at 8 p.m. Monday evening.
Reporters on the scene who spoke with several business-class Flight 206 passengers said that the passengers described it as the “worst turbulence ever experienced.”
Three flight attendants and two passengers were taken to the hospital on landing; two more passengers were treated on site; as per Macleans, passengers later indicated that one woman received a slash across the face during the turbulence, while other passengers simply passed out from the sudden drop in pressure, when the plane plunged 5,000 feet in mere seconds.
According to an FAA spokesperson, on average, 31 people are injured each year due to air turbulence. Unfortunately, as climate change problems come to a head, that number is only likely to increase. The severe turbulence encountered by Flight 206 was a direct consequence of the climate-change-propelled Winter Storm Jonas.
As per an article in GreenBiz, climate change is likely to affect air travel in the future in a number of ways – increased turbulence being one of them. Aside from obvious effects, such as Jonas completely shutting down travel in and out of New York (as per News.com.au,) climate change has been linked to increased damage to airport runways, health issues for airport employees, and rising maintenance costs for airports in general. One airport in Missouri has been struck by climate-change-spawned tornadoes twice in the last two years, causing millions of dollars of damage.
Overall, the effect is to increase both the costs and consequences of air travel; as violent weather events increase, we can expect to see an increase in air travel injuries and crashes, along with injuries sustained at airports themselves (it’s hard to evacuate thousands of people inside a security cordon efficiently when a tornado is on the way,) and even police actions to prevent travel, as seen in New York. In fact, the police promised to arrest anyone found driving during the recent blizzard, and there were still over 400 car crashes in New York City alone.
The one bright side is that air travel is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions; increased flight costs and fears due to climate change will, ironically, have a net positive effect on climate change, as travelers seek safer, cheaper and more efficient methods of travel.
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]