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Mon, Aug 26, 2002

Robert Piché Given Award

Air Transat Pilot Recognized for Phenomenal Glider Ride

Last year, Air Transat pilot Robert Piché and first officer Dirk DeJager had  a really bad thing happen: their Airbus 330 was out of fuel, in the middle of the night, over the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Piché took his 304 passengers and crew on a 22-minute, 70-mile glider ride to a touchdown on a tiny island, doing very little damage to the airplane, and virtually no damage to the human cargo. [The only injuries reported, all minor, were incurred in the evacuatin itself --ed.]

The former bush pilot's exploit made headlines a year ago (the deadstick landing took place August 24); and he achieved a bit of notoriety and recognition that he didn't want, as well: some brought up his prior (US) drug-trafficking conviction, from nearly 20 years earlier.

Piché, now 50 and a fully-reformed man, was given an award by the Air Line Pilots' Association, the organization's Superior Airmanship Award, last week.

Air Transat didn't come out so well. The fuel was all gone because of a hole in a fuel line, that was there because a fuel line had been mis-routed in an engine (or pump) change. The airline was fined C$250,000, and is protesting the finding. Also, some 236 of the passengers have joined a class-action lawsuit against Air Transat, in an effort to punish the airline that hired the guy who saved their lives, and make some lucky law firm rich.

Piché, who has been sidelined since March, is brushing up on his flying, and hopes to get back into the cockpit soon. [I'd fly with that guy any time --ed.]



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