Air Canada Express flight unexpectedly returns to Toronto after windshield cracks

An Air Canada Express flight Tuesday unexpectedly returned to Toronto following takeoff after cracks appeared in its windshield.

Flight AC8745 departed from Pearson International Airport toward Charlotte, North Carolina after 9 a.m. Tuesday. Shortly after taking off, the crew “noticed cracking in the right-hand side window,” said an email from Lauren Dunn, spokesperson for Jazz Aviation LP, the airline operating the flight on behalf of Air Canada under the Air Canada Express brand.

“Per our standard operating procedures, the flight returned to Toronto, landing safely and uneventfully,” she added, noting aircraft windows are double-paned for safety.

Nathan Schnerch was aboard the flight, on his way to visit a friend. The Nova Scotia resident said within 20 minutes of departure, there was an announcement that the windshield had cracked and, though everything was safe, the plane was going to return to Pearson to avoid risk. Schnerch said he and the other passengers deboarded the plane after landing in Toronto.

“At least we’re all safe,” he said Wednesday.

Windshields are generally built to handle high pressure, speed and impact (such as from birds or rocks striking the window), said John Gradek, head of McGill University’s aviation management program. They can sometimes break from impact or stress.

Even then, there are safety nets, such as self-sealing windshields that maintain air pressure for a period despite cracks, allowing the pilot time to bring the plane to a lower altitude, he noted.

“It’s not very common, but when they do break and they do crack, if it’s not handled properly, it can have some pretty catastrophic implications,” he said.

At the same time, cracks in a windshield don’t necessarily need to be reported to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, Gradek said, unless there was a real danger to human life such as if the window blew out.

Instead, a cracked windshield is more of a “be safe than sorry” situation, he said, noting the plane could be repaired in a matter of hours.

“The flight crew knows the state of the window,” Gradek said. “They’re trained to spot these things. … they will make a judgment call.”


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By Jon Doe