POLITICS

Passengers grateful to be alive following Air Canada plane crash in Halifax

03/30/2015 05:19 EDT | Updated 05/30/2015 05:59 EDT
HALIFAX - As a businessman and frequent flyer, Mike Magnus says he has experienced his share of turbulent takeoffs and rough landings.

But even for him, the crash of Air Canada flight 624 was unlike anything he has experienced.

"I've gone through hard landings and aborted takeoffs and aborted landings," said Magnus, 60. "I think this was completely different."

Magnus, one of 133 passengers aboard the A320 Airbus, was returning home from a business trip in Hong Kong when the aircraft touched down 335 metres short of the runway at Halifax Stanfield International Airport early Sunday morning.

The plane hit an antenna array, lost its landing gear and then slid another 335 metres down the runway on its belly before coming to a stop, say investigators with the Transportation Safety Board.

Magnus said it appeared to him as though the pilot tried to pull out of the landing once realizing the aircraft was going to be short of the runway.

Although the extra thrust couldn't pull the plane up, it probably helped get it over a rise in the terrain just before the runway, Magnus said.

"Even though we crashed, we crashed on a level surface that took us into the runway," he said. "As much as it was not comfortable, I think that saved us."

Magnus said he also believes the snow cover on the ground may have played a role in preventing a potential fire.

"Had it been in the summer or had it been on a bare runway, the sparks from metal would not have been deterred," he said.

The Transportation Safety Board said 25 people were taken to hospital for injuries. Mike Cunningham, the regional manager of air investigations, said everyone on board was fortunate to have survived the experience.

"I'd say they're pretty lucky," he said Sunday.

Larry MacKeigan of Port Hawkesbury, N.S., was returning home with his wife when the plane crashed.

"We spent the best day Sunday with our five grandchildren in the city and just couldn't be happier to have this behind us," he said.

He said he isn't about to blame anyone for what happened and believes all involved did their best, given the weather conditions. The city was under a snowfall warning at the time.