Emergency Landing in Duluth by -33° Because of a Heart Attack

This winter has had me jetting around mostly with a stupid grin of disbelief on my face for all the strange things that have happened. Things have settled a bit and I got a nice photo of Manhattan last week, but I’m still on guard for anything. One of our flights made an emergency landing the other day due to heavy turbulence. A friend was on it and he’s pretty banged up. This same FA was the one who handed off the flight that started my winter woes back in December. It had an under-stocked medical kit, and we were rerouted to pick up pax at a closed airport in Honduras after their flight diverted to Belize. Less than two weeks later trying circumstances once again caught up with me. Here is that story…

Day One: YVR (Vancouver) – YYZ (Toronto) report time at 2310, but we are delayed 70 minutes, we are later delayed another hour. This pushes the report time early into the next morning.

Day Two: We finally depart at 0236, the flight is routine and we arrive in YYZ at 0945.

Because our delay, we missed our deadhead from Toronto  and it needed to be rescheduled. Unfortunatly, the next flight out is 7 hours later. Since a salad in YYZ is $13, we decided to buy passes to an all you can eat premium lounge for $25 and change out of uniforms.

We are booked up front on another carrier and so we get to pre-board. While we’re waiting in line on the bridge, our first officer notices an issue with the plane’s window. After reporting it to the crew, it’s determined that the aircraft has a MEL Violation. We’re going to need a new aircraft.

Our departure is rescheduled for 1650 at a new gate.
We board right at 1650 and somehow manage to push back at 1715, We get into Montego Bay, Jamaica at 2122 and have to sort out transport to our hotel since we are way off schedule.

By 2230 we are at the hotel, I have a Red Stripe in the shower and hit the disco.


Now the return: Our departure is delayed 90 minutes, our pickup is now 1830 in MBJ. We blast off at 1954 to Regina. Sometime after our second bar service the lights come on and our Cabin Manager is paging for medical assistance. As it turns out, a lady is most likely having a heart attack. We find a cardiac nurse, open up our medical kit, and have the nurse administer nitroglycerine, ASA and Oxygen. Medlink advises us to land ASAP. We secure our galleys, everything liquid gets dumped wherever we can and everything on the counters gets thrown out whether its used or not. 9 minutes later we are on the ground in Duluth Minnesota, it’s the time is 0000 (Local Time).

It’s so cold that the bridge refuses to move. They had to back a fire truck up to the plane (which nearly slides into it) so EMS can come on. The pax has no jacket so we wrap her in all the buy-on-board blankets we can find and use our onboard wheelchair to get her to the stretcher at the door. To get her off they bring a baggage belt loader to the door and carry her down.

Now the real fun begins

Nobody can leave the aircraft until customs gives the OK. US CBP has to call in additional officers. We also are not allowed to leave until the bags belonging to passenger taken to the hospital are removed from the aircraft, and we don’t have any ground handlers here.

I offer to put on jeans and dig through the bags myself if we can get out of here.
It’s snowing too…

Hours later the captain goes down the belt loader and he has a word with customs. US CBP says everyone has to get off the plane and clear customs. After some more discussion they say we can stay on but we have to depart in 15 minutes or we will hit 4 hours on the ground and US law forbids us from keeping pax onboard on any longer.

The problem is that it’s snowing and with their de-ice equipment we need to have a minimum temp of -30ºC to spray, it’s -33ºC. Also the hold doors are frozen shut so we can’t get any bags off.

Sometime during all of this a woman has wet herself in her seat after a man hit her over the head with a magazine for fidgeting too much.

It smells.

I walk to the front while she is yelling at the Cabin Manager and notice an odd white cloud around her, I assume one of the crew sprayed air freshener (they didn’t and we never figure out what it was).

15 minutes comes and goes and all pax must get off and go to a secure holding area. It’s 0400, also wet lady has now removed her wet pants.

Sometime later our friends at the FBO have gotten the doors open with 15 gallons of de-ice fluid. The bags are off and everyone has pants on again but we still can’t de-ice, all we can do is wait for the sun to come up and hope for warmer temperatures.

About 0800 the sun is up the sky is clear but it’s still -33ºC. The captain goes to look at the wings to see how much snow accumulated. He calls a few of us over for a consult, we all agree, somehow the frost has sublimated and the wings are shiny and clean.

Everyone gets back on and at 0840 we push back diagonally off the gate since the bridge once again will not budge.

The guys get us started but a generator now will not come online. We call for help from another carrier who has a 737 mechanic on the field. We wait, starting to nod off in our jumpseats, until our duty day runs past the 16 hour mark. We can’t make YQR or YWG or even YYZ. We’re all spending the rest of day and tomorrow morning in Duluth.

We pull into the gate and get everyone off at 1040.

Duluth airport takes very good care of our pax during the night with bottles of water, coffee, chips and doughnuts that the duty manager picked up personally. They even have pizza and cookies waiting outside customs while pax get their bags.

1300 we arrive at a Marriott thoroughly exhausted and watch our report time get pushed 3 times from 0000 to 0745.

At 0745 the next morning we get on the bus and arrive at a hangar that our plane is parked inside next to some A320s. We do our pre flight checks by the light of the emergency lighting system since we have no power cart here. We also have no groomers here, so we put on gloves, empty the garbages, and wipe down the lavs ourselves. Then we go for a ride to the terminal to clear security.

We arrive to cheers from pax and get on board only to find out the FBO was unaware that we’re operating a double stop to Regina and then Vancouver. It takes a long time to check in the 176 pax and fix their bag tags. We load up muffins, TP, and bottled water. There is no potable water for coffee or the lavatories, as it was drained last night so it wouldn’t freeze and now it’s too cold and the pump is frozen.

We push back at 1102 and head to YQR..

In YQR I call Westjet for some pax who missed their flights home. They call back 52 min later. Westjet put them down as no shows. I’m put on hold until we shut the door and I have to hang up.

We arrive in YVR nearly 38 hours late and clear customs. Pax are gone from the Westjet desk, they confirm a chatty man in a green hat came by so that’s a good sign.

Time to go home and enjoy 6 of my 8 remaining days off.

Side note: less than 24 hours later I get a call from crew scheduling asking for assistance staffing a 3 day pairing. Now down to 5 days off.

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