AF 358 aka the "Toronto Miracle"

Completely burnt out - photo taken the other day
Air France Flight 358 was an Airbus A340-313E, registration F-GLZQ, on a scheduled international flight from Paris, France, to Toronto, Ontario, Canada. On August 2, 2005, just after landing at Toronto Pearson International Airport at 4:01 p.m. EDT, it crashed into nearby Etobicoke Creek, approximately 300 m beyond the end of the runway. All 309 passengers and crew aboard the Airbus A340 survived, with 12 people sustaining serious injuries. The accident highlighted the role played by highly trained flight attendants during an emergency.


The aircraft operating Flight 358 was a 295-seat Airbus A340-313E powered by four CFM International CFM56 engines. With manufacturer's serial number 289 and registration F-GLZQ, it was first flown on August 3, 1999, and delivered to Air France on September 7, 1999. There were 297 passengers and 12 crew aboard the Airbus. On this flight, it was flown by Captain Alain Rosaye, 57, and First Officer Frédéric Naud, 43. Rosaye was a seasoned pilot with 15,411 total flight hours and Naud had 4,834 hours of flight time.


Out of the 297 passengers, there were 168 adult males, 118 adult females, 8 children and 3 infants. Among them, 3 supplemental cabin crew members were seated in crew seats, one of them in the third occupant seat of the flight deck and two in the flight crew rest area. The passengers consisted of businesspersons, vacationers and students.


The accident occurred on August 2, 2005 at 16:03 EDT. Air France Flight 358, an Airbus A340-313E with 297 passengers and 12 crew, overshot the end of runway 24L at Toronto Pearson International Airport and came to rest in a small ravine 300 m past the end of the runway. All passengers and crew evacuated the aircraft successfully. Twelve major injuries and no fatalities resulted from the accident. The rest suffered minor or no injuries. A post-crash fire destroyed the aircraft.

The flight landed during exceptionally bad weather – severe winds, heavy rain, and localized thunderstorms near the airport – and touched down further along the runway than usual. Some passengers report that the plane was rocking from side to side before landing, possibly due to turbulence and gusting winds associated with the storm systems.

The plane was cleared to land at 16:04 EDT on Runway 24L, which, at 2,700 m in length, is the shortest runway at Pearson Airport. After touchdown, the aircraft did not stop before the end of the runway, but continued for 300 meters until it slid into the Etobicoke Creek ravine with a speed of 148 km/h, on the western edge of the airport near the interchange of Dixie Road and Highway 401.

Passenger photo taken during the evacuation
After coming to rest, fire was noticed outside the aircraft, and an evacuation order was given. The two rear left exits remained closed due to the fire. On opening the emergency exits, one of the right middle exit slides (R3) deflated after being punctured by debris from the aircraft, while one of the left slides (L2) failed to deploy at all. A number of passengers were forced to jump from the aircraft to exit. The actions of the flight attendants ensured that all of the passengers were evacuated within the required 90 second time frame.

Emergency response teams responded to the incident and were on site within 52 seconds of the crash occurring.

After the crash, some passengers - including those who were injured - scrambled up the ravine to Highway 401 which runs almost parallel to the runway. Peel Regional Police located the first officer and several passengers along Highway 401, receiving assistance from motorists who were passing the airport when the crash occurred. Some motorists took injured people, including the pilot, directly to hospitals. Other motorists took non-injured passengers to the airport. The main fire burned for two hours, ending just before 18:00 EDT. All fires were out by early afternoon on 3 August 2005, and investigators were able to begin their work.

The accident caused the cancellation or diversion of hundreds of flights, with ripple effects throughout the North American air traffic system. By that night, four of the five runway surfaces at Pearson were back in service, but the flight and passenger backlog continued through the next day.

This was the first time an Airbus A340 series was involved in a crash, ending its 14-year clean record. The aircraft involved entered service in 1999 and had its last maintenance check in France on 5 July 2005. It made 3,711 flights for a total of 28,426 flight hours.


A METAR for Pearson was released almost exactly at the time of the accident. It stated that the weather at 16:04 EDT consisted of winds from 340° true at 24 kn gusting to 33 kn, with 1 1⁄4 miles visibility in heavy thunderstorms and rain. The ceiling was overcast at 4,500 feet above ground level with towering cumulus clouds. The temperature was 23 °C. According to the Canada Air Pilot, runway 24L has a heading of 227° true (237° magnetic), and the minima for the ILS approach are ceiling 200 feet above ground level and visibility 1⁄2 mile or runway visual range (RVR) of 2600.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that the crash occurred two hours after a ground stop was declared at the airport because of severe thunderstorms in the area ("red alert" status, which, for safety reasons, halts all ground activity on the apron and gate area. Aircraft can still land, and take off if still in queue). Visibility at the time of the accident was reported to be very poor. There was lightning, strong gusty winds, and hail at the time and the rain just began as the plane was landing. Within two hours the winds increased from 5 to 30 km/h and the temperature dropped from 30 to 23 °C. A severe thunderstorm warning was in effect since 11:30 a.m. and all outbound flights and ground servicing operations had been canceled but landings were still permitted.


Out of the twelve passengers who suffered major injuries, nine suffered the injuries from the impact and three suffered the injuries from the evacuation. Most of the injuries occurred to passengers and crew located in the flight deck and forward cabin.

According to passenger reports, the leap from the aircraft to the ground caused many of the injuries, including broken legs, and ruptured vertebrae. The Captain sustained back and head injuries during the impact of the crash when his seat was wrenched out of place by the force of the impact, causing him to hit his head against the overhead controls. Minor injuries included twisted ankles, sore necks, bruises and effects from smoke inhalation. A total of 33 persons were taken to various hospitals within and outside Toronto for treatment, of which 21 were treated for minor injuries and released.



Too far down the runway...
The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder were sent to France for analysis. Preliminary results indicate that the plane landed 1,220 m from the start of the 2,743 m runway (much further along than normal) at a ground speed of 148 knots – 140 knots being considered normal – with a tailwind, skidded down the runway and was traveling over 70 knots as it overran the tarmac and fell into the ravine. Tire marks extend 490 m indicating emergency braking action.

Réal Levasseur Shedalin, the TSB's lead investigator for the accident, said the plane landed too far down the runway to have been able to stop properly on such wet pavement. Investigators have found no evidence of engine trouble, brake failure, or problems with the spoilers or thrust reversers.


The final report of the TSB investigation states: "During the flare, the aircraft travelled through an area of heavy rain, and visual contact with the runway environment was significantly reduced." This suggests the possibility that the plane was hit in heavy weather by a wet downburst, causing the Airbus to land long. Based on the Air France A340-313 Quick Reference Handbook (QRH), page 34G, "Landing Distance Without Autobrake", the minimum distance of 1,155 m would be used in dry conditions to bring the aircraft to a complete stop. In wet conditions the braking distance increases with a 5-knot tailwind, reversers operative, and a 6.3 mm of downpour on the runway to 2,016 m. This runway length was obviously not available at touch down of AF 358.


The TSB concluded in their final report that the pilots had missed cues that would have prompted them to review their decision to land. In their report the TSB cited that
  • Air France had no procedures related to distance required from thunderstorms during approaches and landings.
  • After the autopilot had been disengaged, the pilot flying increased engine thrust in reaction to a decrease in airspeed and a perception that the aircraft was sinking (spatial disorientation). The power increase contributed to an increase in aircraft energy and the aircraft deviated above the flight path.
  • At 300 feet above ground level, the wind changed from a headwind to a tailwind.
  • While approaching the threshold, the aircraft entered an intense downpour and the forward visibility became severely reduced.
  • When the aircraft was near the threshold, the crew members committed to the landing and believed their go-around option no longer existed.
  • The pilot not flying did not make the standard callouts concerning the spoilers and thrust reversers during the landing roll. This contributed to the delay in the pilot flying selecting the thrust reversers.
  • There were no landing distances indicated on the operational flight plan for a contaminated runway condition at the Toronto / Lester B. Pearson International Airport.
  • The crew did not calculate the landing distance required for runway 24L despite aviation routine weather reports (METARs) calling for thunderstorms. The crew were not aware of the margin of error.
  • The topography at the end of the runway beyond the area and the end of Runway 24L contributed to aircraft damage and injuries to crew and passengers.

The TSB advised changes to bring Canadian runway standards in line with those used abroad, either by extending them to have a 300 m runway safety area (or Runway End Safety Area) or, where that is impossible, providing an equivalently effective backup method of stopping aircraft. Other recommendations that the TSB made includes having the Department of Transport establish clear standards limiting approaches and landings in convective weather for all operators at Canadian airports, and mandate training for all pilots involved in Canadian air operations to better enable them to make landing decisions in bad weather.


Within one week of the crash, cash payments ranging from C$1,000 to C$3,700 were given to passengers for interim emergency use. These funds were given to passengers through an emergency centre set up near the airport. These payments were independent of the claims process, which has been started for passengers who have not retained counsel. It is expected that the insurers of Air France will pay for all damages as well as extra compensation for having passengers go through the ordeal; however, only amounts of €6,000 to €9,000 have been offered, prompting passengers to turn to the lawsuit to seek legal action. All passengers have also been offered a free round-trip ticket to any Air France destination in the world in the same fare class in which they were originally booked on AF358.

After a lawsuit lasting four and a half years, Air France settled the compensation lawsuit with 184 of the 297 passengers (no crew members included) aboard Flight 358. The compensation is for a total of $12 million. Air France will pay $10 million, and have been released from passengers' claims stemming from the incident, according to the judgment's summary. Airbus and Goodrich, the company that made the emergency evacuation system on the plane will pay $1.65 million, and claims against them in a lawsuit have been released.


Passenger class action

Within a few days after the accident, a class action suit was filed on behalf of all passengers on board by representative plaintiff Suzanne Deak to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. The attorneys representing Deak and the passengers are Gary R. Will and Paul Miller from Will Barristers in Toronto. The plaintiffs sought payments for general and aggravated damages in the amount of $75 million, and payments for special damages and pecuniary damages in the amount of $250 million. A second class action lawsuit was also filed by plaintiffs Sahar Alqudsi and Younis Qawasmi (her husband) for $150 million a few days later. However, both suits had since merged as only one lawsuit was allowed to proceed to court.

In December 2009, a $12 million settlement agreement was reached between Air France and the class. The settlement resolved the claims of 184 passengers and their families. Forty-five other passengers had opted out of the suit, while 68 others have already agreed to a settlement with Air France.

Air France stated that it would not lose any money from the lawsuits as it is covered by its insurers. Air France did not provide further contacts and assistance to those who retained counsel of the lawsuit until an agreement has been made between both sides' lawyers.

Air France lawsuit

R(E)SA could have prevented this to happen..?
In June 2008, almost 3 years after the accident, Air France filed a lawsuit against the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, NAV Canada, and the Government of Canada for $180 million. In the statement of claim filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Air France alleged that the "GTAA failed to provide a safe environment for the conduct of civil air operations." The statement also claims that "The overrun and the consequent injuries to persons and damage to property were caused solely by the negligence of the defendants". Air France says Transport Canada was "negligent" by not implementing the recommendations of a coroner's inquest into the 1978 crash (Air Canada Flight 189) that urged the creation of a 300-metre safety area to give aircraft more room to stop after landing.


An inquiry by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada found runway safety zones at the end of runways at some Canadian airports are below accepted international standards. The report highlighted that Toronto Pearson's runways meet current Canadian standards, and that runway 24L has a de facto 150 metre RESA. The TSB also suggested precautions are needed to be taken by airlines when landing in bad weather.

Flight 358 is no longer used on this route (number is now used for Air France flights from Roland Garros Airport in Sainte-Marie, Réunion to Paris). The flight route designation for Air France's Paris-Toronto route is now Flight 356, using a Boeing 777 aircraft.


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