Robert Piché

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Robert Piché
Born (1952-11-05) November 5, 1952 (age 65)
Quebec City, Quebec
Nationality Canadian
Occupation Pilot
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, despite not being responsible for the improper maintenance that led to the fuel exhaustion.

Early life and education[edit]

Piché grew up in Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula and learned to fly as a teenager. In 1973, he graduated from CEGEP de Chicoutimi with a college diploma in aircraft piloting.

Airline career[edit]

After graduation he worked for regional airlines until he was laid off by Quebecair. After being laid off, he worked odd jobs which consisted of smuggling marijuana to the United States by plane.[1]

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.[2]

In 1996, at the age of 43, Air Transat hired Piché. He rose rapidly from co-pilot to captain on the Lockheed L-1011 Tristar, and transitioned to the Airbus A330 in the spring of 2000.[3]

On October 1st, 2017, Piché flew his last commercial flight. He retired from commercial flying after piloting TS605 from Rome to Montréal. Although this was his last commercial flight, his very last flight for Air Transat took place on October 12th, 2017, when he flew C-GKTS, an A330-300 on a sightseeing flight from Montreal, over Quebec City and back to Montreal. The flight was a fundraiser for his foundation, "La Fondation Robert Piché" which helps fund programs dedicated to helping people with drug and alcohol addictions.

Emergency landing[edit]

Piché is best known for performing a deadstick landing of an Airbus A330 (C-GITS) 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.[2][4] 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.[3] Canada's other successful landing of a fuel-starved aircraft was Air Canada Flight 143 (the "Gimli Glider") in 1983,[2] and Vanity Fair mentioned Piché's flight when it covered the successful water landing of US Airways Flight 1549.[3]

"The Azores Glider" at Toronto-Pearson Airport in 2016

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.[2][3]

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. [5] 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.[6]

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".


  1. ^ Transat pilot flying high in popular opinion The Globe and Mail
  2. ^ a b c d Crossette, Barbara (September 10, 2001). "Jet Pilot Who Saved 304 Finds Heroism Tainted -". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 3 February 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d Langewiesche, William (June 2009). "US Airways Flight 1549: Anatomy of a Miracle | Style | Vanity Fair". Retrieved 3 February 2011. 
  4. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-12-15. Retrieved 2011-12-15. 
  5. ^ "Robert Piché". Retrieved 3 February 2011. 
  6. ^ "Robert Piché Given Award". Aero News Network. Aero News Network. 26 August 2002. Retrieved 10 August 2016. 

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