January 13, 2008 / 3:24 AM / in 10 years

Investigators seek Air Canada jolt answers

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Investigators began assessing passenger accounts and flight data on Friday to determine what caused the violent jolting of an Air Canada flight that resulted in 10 people being sent to hospital after the plane was forced to make an unscheduled landing.

<p>Paramedics come out of an Air Canada plane after 10 passengers were injured when the plane hit air turbulence over the Rocky Mountains enroute to Toronto from Victoria, at Calgary International Airport in Calgary January 10, 2008. REUTERS/Todd Korol</p>

Air Canada said all passengers and crew from flight 190 that were injured as the plane plunged midair and rocked severely above the Rocky Mountains early Thursday had been released from three Calgary hospitals.

The airline and a spokesman at Canada’s Transportation Safety Board declined to speculate on the cause of the incident.

Safety board investigators interviewed passengers in Calgary, before the passengers went on to their designations on other flights. Flight 190, with 83 passengers and five crew on board, was en route to Toronto from Victoria, British Columbia, when the incident occurred about 30 minutes into the journey.

Safety board staff are “assessing the occurrence and they’re drawing from expertise from across the country, by telephone, by conference call,” board spokesman John Cottreau said.

“Once the assessment’s done, they should have a better idea of what’s needed” for an investigation, he said.

In 2006-07, air investigations took an average of 516 days to complete, according to the board’s annual report.

The board has collected the flight data recorders, and they were expected to arrive at its engineering branch in Ottawa on Friday, Cottreau said.

In harrowing accounts, some passengers said the pilot of the aircraft, an Airbus A319, announced after the plane bucked in midair that he was flying the jet manually because the autopilot system was not working.

One theory advanced by commercial pilots in various media interviews is the possibility that severe turbulence was enough to disable the Airbus’s computer-controlled flight system.

Airline officials would not comment.

Passengers spoke of people and dishes tossed around the cabin during the bucking, which they said lasted about 15 seconds.

The jet was diverted to Calgary International Airport, where it landed safely at 8:30 a.m. local time and was met by dozens of ambulances and firefighting equipment. Eight passengers and two crew were sent to hospital.

Reporting by Jeffrey Jones and Louise Egan; Editing by Peter Galloway

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