The pilots of a Delta Air Lines operated Airbus A330 jet were forced to make an emergency landing at St. John’s International Airport in Newfoundland last week after smoke from wildfires raging thousands of miles away in Colorado got into the flight deck and passenger cabin an initial report has found.
Delta flight DL30 from Atlanta (ATL) to London Heathrow (LHR), which departed at around 7.30 pm on October 22 had been in the air for nearly three hours when the pilots reported smoke in the flight deck and decided to divert to St. John’s – the last available airport for flights heading East from the United States to divert before reaching Iceland.
But when they reported what was happening to Canadian air traffic control it turned out that they weren’t the only flight reporting smoke onboard. In fact, Gander ATC Center said four or five other flights had been experiencing similar issues and they believed it was due to smoke from the Colorado wildfires.
While the Colorado wildfires may have been thousands of miles away from where the Delta plane was flying, air traffic controllers believe the smoke had gotten into a jetstream and blown across the United States and into Canada.
Despite being reassured that the smoke probably didn’t mean the plane was on fire, the pilots decided to continue with their diversion where they safely landed a short time later, the Aviation Herald reports.
Firefighters and engineers conducted routine checks and didn’t find any trace of fire onboard the 16-year-old aircraft. After a delay of three and a half hours on the ground, the flight eventually departed for London Heathrow.
An initial report from Canada’s Transport Safety Board (TSB) said “the flight crew smelled a wood smoke odour in the cockpit. The flight crew contacted cabin crew members who confirmed smelling the odour in the cabin as well.”
“The flight crew subsequently declared an emergency, began descending and completed the quick reference handbook (QRH) procedure for smoke and fumes; however, the odour did not dissipate. Following a discussion with company maintenance personnel, the flight crew decided to divert to CYYT where the flight landed without further incident.”
The TSB report continued: “multiple flights across eastern Canada reported the detection of smell related to smoke carried aloft at high altitude in Canadian airspace, which originated from ongoing wildfires in Colorado.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for Delta said “technicians thoroughly examined the Airbus A330 aircraft and the decision made to proceed to London approximately four hours behind schedule.”
“We appreciate our customers’ patience on this flight – nothing is more important than the safety of our people and our customers,” an emailed statement from the airline continued.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.