A Pacific Coastal Airlines Saab Fairchild SF-340A, similar to the plane used for Flight 713.

B.C. plane hit by lightning, forced to perform emergency landing in Vancouver

A Coastal Pacific Airlines flight from Comox Valley to Vancouver was struck mid-flight

A lightning strike forced a plane originating from Comox to perform an emergency landing in Vancouver on Sept. 18.

Shortly before 7:30 p.m. Monday night, Pacific Coastal Airlines flight 713 was hit by lightning, about 20 minutes outside of Vancouver International Airport (YVR). Twenty-seven passengers and three crew members were aboard the flight, which departed from Comox Valley Airport (YQQ) at 7:07 p.m.

“An aircraft declared emergency landing. Has landed safely. No impact to airport operations,” tweeted Vancouver Airport following the incident.

Pacific Coastal Airlines spokesperson Kevin Boothroyd said despite an emergency being declared, the pilots were still able to successfully land the plane. (By declaring an emergency, the plane was able to get priority landing from air traffic control).

“The pilots are well trained and — following all their predetermined operational procedures — did exactly the right thing,” he said. “The plane did successfully land at YVR and all the passengers were de-planed.”

There were no injuries reported to passengers. YVR was the plane’s final destination.

Boothroyd said lightning strikes to aircraft, while not common, do happen from time to time.

“All aircrafts are designed with engineering to mitigate strikes from lightning and they do happen,” he said. “In this case the plane took a pretty good hit, but it operated as it should.”

“At all times, the pilots were in full control of the aircraft.”

YQQ chief executive officer Fred Bigelow, who is also a pilot, said his own flights were hit by lightning a few times.

“It catches your attention, usually there’s a flash sometimes … inside the aircraft,” he said. “Usually there’s a tiny little burn-mark where it goes in and a tiny little burn-mark where it goes out.”

He said though it can sound dramatic, lightning strikes are usually not serious.

“The way an aircraft is grounded and the way electricity flows through it and enters and exits an aircraft, other than seeing the flash and feeling a knock, it’s not such a big deal for the occupants of the aircraft.”

The aircraft that was hit is an Saab 340 twin-turboprop. It is 20 metres long with a 21-metre wingspan and a top speed of 463 km/h.