An Air Link Learjet 35A plane undertaking an air ambulance mission suffered damage while attempting to land in difficult weather conditions at Grand Prairie Airport, Alberta, Canada. After aborting the landing and briefly circling the airport, the plane, registration number XA-UKF, successfully landed on the same runway at 01:00 hrs on 23 January. Neither the medical staff, flight crew, or the patient, who was being transferred from Guadalajara, Mexico, was injured in the incident.
Transport Canada published a preliminary, unconfirmed report on 31 January. Information on the event was received by Transport Canada from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB), which was notified by a local fixed-base operator (FBO).
The Transport Canada report states: “On arrival in Grande Prairie, the flight crew completed a night VOR approach to Runway 07. During the landing flare, the right main gear and the right wing tip fuel tank contacted the runway simultaneously. A go-around was performed and a visual approach and landing were subsequently completed onto Runway 07, without further incident. The right wing-tip fuel tank sustained minor damage. The flight had encountered several minutes of light icing conditions during the approach, with the nacelle, wing and tail anti-icing heaters ‘on’. Following consultation with company maintenance the aircraft was ferried back to Mexicali, Mexico, for repairs.” The report also stated that fuel was leaking from the aircraft.
A spokesperson for the TSB advised that the event was registered on its database as a ‘reportable incident’, and was logged as a minor or ‘class 5’ occurrence, defined as an occurrence recorded for possible safety analysis, statistical reporting, or archival purposes only. No investigation is expected by the Canadian authorities.
Mexico-based Air Link issued a report from the pilot, who gave more details on the incident: “When I crossed the threshold and pulled back on the power, I felt a change in the intensity of wind on the left side of the airplane, followed immediately by a stalling of the ailerons and loss of lift on the right wing.” The pilot stated that the ‘touch and go’ was discussed with the airport radio service before the final, successful landing was made. The following day, the pilot made an inspection of the damage and sent photographs of wing and the wing-tip tank to the maintenance chief of Air Link’s authorised repair station, says the Air Link report, adding: “[He] authorised me to ferry the aeroplane back to base … for minor repairs.”
Air Link also reported that a stabiliser was damaged in the balked landing, but was ruled to be within the limits of safe aircraft operation.
An alternative account on the landing, which differs in significant details, was published by a member of the fixed-wing air ambulance community on social media sites and on the iReport website of the US-based Cable News Network (CNN), which makes unscreened, unchecked news reports available to the public. This account was taken from an anonymous source that was earlier published on an Internet forum; the author claims to work at the airport involved, but is not named. A photograph featured with the text shows a plane of similar shape and paint scheme as Air Link’s XA-UKF, and shows damage consistent with the statement in the Transport Canada report that ‘the right wing tip fuel tank contacted the runway’, but no registration number or date is visible in the image.
The reporter states that the day after the incident, the pilots declined an offer of a temporary repair to stem the leaking fuel, adding: “They told us to fuel the plane as quickly as possible to avoid losing too much fuel to a hole in the tank.”
A further, serious allegation is made that the ‘pilot did not inform the tower of the wing strike’. However, according to iReport, the post that makes this claim was uploaded on 1 February, whereas dating information on the Transport Canada report and emails between Air Link and the TSB shared with Waypoint suggest that the TSB was in fact informed of the incident shortly after it took place.