November 5, 1952 |
Quebec City, Québec
|Known for||Air Transat Flight 236|
Robert Piché (born November 5, 1952) is a Canadian pilot. On August 24, 2001, he was captain of the Airbus A330 flying Air Transat Flight 236 and managed to land the aircraft safely in the Azores after it lost all power due to fuel exhaustion. This remains a record glide length for a commercial aircraft. Piché and his co-pilot were later assigned partial responsibility for the incident.
Early life and education
Piché grew up in Quebec's remote Gaspé Peninsula and learned to fly as a teenager. In 1973 he graduated from a college in Chicoutimi (CEGEP de Chicoutimi).
In 1983, Piché served 16 months of a 10-year sentence in prison after a plane he landed solo at a small airfield in the state of Georgia was found to be full of marijuana smuggled from Jamaica. He was pardoned in 2000 and is considered fully rehabilitated.
Piché is best known for performing a dead-stick landing of an Airbus A330 in the Azores in 2001. He glided the Airbus A330 longer than any commercial aircraft in history, and landed at an airport on a remote island with limited navigation instruments. He was able to successfully land the plane (with only 8 blown tires) with no injuries among the crew and 306 passengers. In a response to a reporter's question regarding heroism, Mr. Piché stated I don't consider myself a hero, sir. I could have done without this. Canada's other successful landing of a fuel-starved aircraft was Air Canada Flight 143 (the "Gimli Glider") in 1983, and Vanity Fair mentioned Piché's flight when it covered the successful water landing of US Airways Flight 1549.
The primary cause of the incident was improper maintenance, caused by an incorrect part installed in the hydraulics system, resulting in the fuel leak. However, the final investigation also assigned the flight crew partial responsibility for failing to detect the fuel situation earlier. Review of the Cockpit Voice Recorder showed that the pilot failed to use the main procedural checklist when attempting to rectify the imbalance of fuel between the tanks, which might have prevented the extent of the fuel leak on one side. The pilot also transferred fuel from the working engine to the failing engine which magnified the crisis.
Despite this, Piché was praised by media and was celebrated as a hero, especially in Quebec, where he remains a popular speaker. Experienced pilots praise the captain for not panicking or trying to make a sea landing.  In 2002, Piché was awarded the Superior Airmanship Award by the Air Line Pilots' Association in recognition of his extraordinary skill in successfully executing the dead-stick landing of an Airbus A330.
The story of Robert Piché is depicted in the 2010 French Canadian biographical drama film Piché: The Landing of a Man (Piché: Entre ciel et terre, FR) culminating with the events on Flight 236. Captain Piché is portrayed by both Michel Côté and his son Maxime LeFlaguais. Piché is also portrayed in the television series Mayday in its episode "Flying on Empty".
- Transat pilot flying high in popular opinion The Globe and Mail
- Crossette, Barbara (September 10, 2001). "Jet Pilot Who Saved 304 Finds Heroism Tainted - NYTimes.com". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 3 February 2011.
- Langewiesche, William (June 2009). "US Airways Flight 1549: Anatomy of a Miracle | Style | Vanity Fair". vanityfair.com. Retrieved 3 February 2011.
- "Robert Piché". robertpiche.com. Retrieved 3 February 2011.
- Aero News Network. Aero News Network. 26 August 2002 http://www.aero-news.net/index.cfm?do=main.textpost&id=8c64b4a7-4084-4f96-be6d-d141966b95ba. Retrieved 10 August 2016. Missing or empty
- Final investigative report for Air Transat Flight 236
- "Jet Pilot Who Saved 304 Finds Heroism Tainted", New York Times, September 10, 2001
- Robert Piché's personal website