CAL flight diverted due to false alarm

| 08/09/2019 | 53 Comments
Cayman News Service
Cayman Airways flight to New York diverted to Orlando (Photo courtesy Cayman Crosstalk)

(CNS) UPDATED MONDAY: Cayman Airways Limited (CAL) has confirmed that their Sunday afternoon flight to New York was diverted to Orlando International Airport (MCO) due to indications that there was smoke in one of its cargo holds. However, it appears to have been a false alarm, as CAL said later after investigations had begun that there was, in fact, no evidence of any actual smoke being present in the cargo hold.

CAL flight KX792 left Grand Cayman at 3:30pm, scheduled to land at JFK airport at 8:30pm. However, after the “smoke indication”, Captain Frederick Whorms declared an emergency, and the aircraft was landed safely in Orlando.

According to a release from CAL Sunday evening, “The captain and crew successfully conducted an emergency evacuation of the aircraft, which resulted in all passengers and crew safely exiting the aircraft. Passengers and crew were then transported to the airport terminal.”

Since CAL’s two brand new Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft were grounded in March in response to two fatal crashes of that same model, believed to have been caused by software problems, the airline has been struggling to keep up with their schedule using only their aging aircraft, which were supposed to have been retired when they leased the new planes.

It remains unclear what the airline plans to do about the Max 8’s and whether the intention is to keep them and fix the problems or negotiate a return of the planes to Boeing.

Cayman Airways President and CEO Fabian Whorms said in August, “Every day, we transport up to two thousand international passengers, and the grounding of our two new 737 Max 8 aircraft has complicated our ability to do that consistently to the high service standard that we are known for,” he said.

Providing further details about the diverted flight on Monday morning, CAL said that approximately an hour and a half into the flight, an emergency was declared following a warning light indicating the presence of smoke in one of its cargo holds. Under the command of Captain Whorms, assisted by First Officer Adrian West, the aircraft landed safely at Orlando at 6:17pm (EDT).

“With the uncertainty of what was causing the indication, the 103 passengers on board and five crew evacuated the aircraft through the emergency over-wing exits and the deployed door chutes/slides,” CAL said. “Emergency personnel, including paramedics, were on site to assist and treat passengers and crew if needed. All passengers and crew were cleared to the terminal without the need for further medical attention.”

The airline said that all passengers and crew were provided with accommodations Sunday night and a replacement flight was arranged for today, Monday 9 September.

CLA said that an investigation is in progress but “there is no evidence at this time of any actual smoke being present in the cargo hold”.

“We are extremely mindful that this emergency landing and evacuation was a very distressing event,” Whorms said. “On behalf of Cayman Airways, I offer a most sincere apology to our passengers for having to experience this emergency landing and evacuation, which was necessary in the interest of the safety of our passengers and crew. We have removed the affected aircraft from service indefinitely in order to accomplish the required repairs.”

Due to the aircraft being removed from service, CAL made changes to its flight schedule for today, Monday: 

  • KX793, scheduled to depart JFK at 8:45am will now depart at 7:30pm.
  • KX2606, scheduled to depart GCM at 6:05pm will now depart at 10:10pm
  • KX2607, scheduled to depart KIN at 8:10pm will now depart at 12:10am
  • KX200/201 will now be operated on Tuesday, 10 September instead.

All other flights are expected to operate on schedule. Passengers on affected flights will receive updates on their new flight times via email and text messages, CAL said.

Affected passengers may call Cayman Airways Reservations on 345-949-2311 or 1-800-422-9626 (toll free in the United States) with any questions or concerns.

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Comments (53)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Next time just announce that there is a free buffet outside inclusive of alcoholic beverages. That plane will be empty within the first 2 minutes.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I love all the comments here from people who clearly do not have a clue about what being an airline pilot involves. It’s a basic rule that if something tells you there’s a fire onboard you get the airplane on the ground ASAP. In this case a $20 sensor failed but if you doubt the logic of this read up on –

    Any pilot worth the title knows about that crash and reacts accordingly.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thank you CNS for publishing with accurrancy on this incident. When I read it on CMR they made it so dramatic saying that it was due to a plane fire…

  4. Jon Koons says:

    The article about the Cayman Airways emergency landing is slightly inaccurate. I was a passenger aboard the plane. The landing went smoothly until the plane came to a halt on the runway. Then the hostess got onto the PA system and yelled “Everyone unbuckle your seatbelts and get out of the plane. Get out of the plane right now!” This completely inappropriate language caused a panic, and people began shoving and pushing to get out. Despite reports, there was at least one injury that occurred during the evacuation. The behavior of the flight attendant who made this announcement was disgraceful and needs to be investigated.

    • Anonymous says:

      Question for Jon Koons: Prior to decent, did they announce the nature of the emergency (ie, did you know there was an indication of smoke it the cargo hold?

      From flight radar, it looks like it descended in just 10 minutes.

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s insane!!! They are meant to help the situation run smoothly as possible not cause a panic.

      • Anonymous says:

        They are trained to scream at people to get them out quickly…some people maybe in shock, trying to get their carry ons, or simply trying to take photos or video and the plane could be catching on fire..The flight attendants screaming and shouting is what they are trained to do to get people of the aircraft quickly..

        Imagine if someone had did that with the recent Russian aircraft where people stopped to get their carry ons causing other people to perish. Trust me a lot more people would have survived.

        If I were you I would be grateful to be alive rather than complaining that someone shouted at you to get off the airplane that could have possibly been on fire..

        • Anonymous says:

          No they’re not trained to scream at you like the plane is going to explode! As someone who went through flight attendant school I can surely say that was definitely not what anyone told me to do.

        • Anonymous says:

          EXACTLY! You are in a confined tube with few exits, with thousands of pounds of jet fuel. The screaming and shouting reflect the URGENCY to get out, and most importantly, not try to grab your carry on bags. It is the equivalent of an urgent fire alarm.

          I would rather have some people with some bruises and ankle sprains than have 40 people burn to death. Even small amount of smoke inhalation combined with panic would be a disaster.

          (The original poster, Jon Koons, can be very critical because it was a false alarm. Different story if people died. You should check on YouTube of videos when flight attendants are repeatedly yelling “brace, brace, brace” prior to an emergency landing.).

    • Anonymous says:

      no such thing as an investigation with cig and cal…..

    • Anonymous says:

      You seem quite dumb to the fact the an emergency landing doesn’t mean the airplane is crashing. They obviously had a warning indication and had to evacuate your foolish self once on the ground. Article seems quite accurate to me Einstein.

    • Anonymous says:

      That is what they are trained and supposed to do…What did you want her to say..Ladies and Gentlemen, this is an emergency, get your bag out of the overhead and take your time to the closest exit. The aircraft maybe on fire and you might get burnt but we have to be nice to you and not rush you out in any way because someone may go on social media and say I wasn’t nice because I was shouting for you to get out…If the plane was actually on fire you would be thanking her for screaming at you..

      Read this article particularly what it says flight attendants are allowed to do in an emergency to get people of the plane..

      In an emergency, if passengers are refusing to get out, staff need to be prepared to do anything to get them onto the slide, including pushing, kicking, and shouting. It is their responsibility to get people out, and there is no time to accommodate those with vertigo. At full pelt, 150 people can be off in 60 seconds. The crew would also check the flight deck before leaping for the slide themselves. James explains: “If they’ve got us down, it might be nice to make sure they are alive.” For security reasons, staff are not allowed to reveal other emergency circumstances in which crew would be allowed onto the flight deck.

    • BeaumontZodecloun says:

      It sounds to me as though they were acting on the probability that there was a fire in the cargo hold. I agree that the announcement to leave a plane should be a calm one.

      The flight attendant may not have known it wasn’t a dire emergency. Hindsight and all that. Imagine having the job of being the last person off an airplane in which there is reasonable cause to suspect a fire.

      • Anonymous says:

        NO WRONG, WRONG! In case of a suspected fire, the flight attendants should not give a “calm” announcement but stress the urgency.

        Go to YouTube and see flight attendants demo a plane evacuation.

        This flight attendant did EXACTLY what is required and how he/she was trained.

    • Anonymous says:

      Speaking in a calm and collected manner somehow does not register with people in times of panic. Instructions (which is rehursed numerous times) have to be yelled especially in regards to “Emergency Evacuation”. Would you prefer a calm tone and orderly manner if there was fire onboard?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Praise to the captain and his crew…as usual, doing a mighty good job…

    Sad to see how the airline is mismanaged and cost the country so much…and also have the rights to not disclose the lease agreement/cost….amazing…wake up Cayman 2021…

  6. Anonymous says:

    Better safe than sorry. Nice job CAL!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Great job by the crew in executing the emergency and evacuation.

    Many people are under the misconception that CAL own the new Max 8 airplane or purchased them, they do not. The airplanes are leased from a US company and thus CAL cannot return to Boeing as the article stated.

    It was previously stated by CAL management that the terms of the lease for the new Max airplanes would not be released into the public domain.

    The change in circumstances as well as the fact that the public purse carries the burden would warrant that the lease agreements for the grounded airplanes be made public as well as the plan of action or options to exit those costly leases.

    The Cayman people deserve to know just how much these airplanes are costing them monthly while sitting on the ramp.

  8. anon says:

    With so many CAL passengers flying on freebies I suppose they will not reject the Max 8″s, unlike the passengers of other airlines who will not fly on them.

    • Anonymous says:

      I get so tired of people saying this about freebies. All airlines offer free or reduced rates to their employees as an employment benefit. With a small airline like Cayman Airways and a small island like Cayman, you will see employees flying because you know them and where they work. Every other airline you fly on would have the same employees but you would not recognize them as just other passengers..

      • Anonymous says:

        But other airlines fly their employees for free only when there is free space (standby) not sitting in first class with a pre-booked ticket like the CAL employees and board members do.

        • Anonymous says:

          Board members maybe, but not staff..The term used is non-revenue passengers and they always fly policy on all airlines is that non-revenue passengers cannot be boarded unless there are excess seats available..

        • Taxpayer says:

          1.47pm I understand there are employees and family members who retired decades ago who still get freebies not to mention board members and their families. This is why even though they finally have to pay for checked in baggage CAL passengers are almost all Caymanians yet American carries hardly any.

          • Anonymous says:

            No. Once all us paying Caymanians are on CAL out of pride (whether you agree with it or not) there just aren’t many left for AA, JB, etc.

      • Anonymous says:

        so give us the stats!…how many fly free on each plane…

  9. Anonymous says:

    Excellent job by the whole crew. Job very well done but the sooner those Max aircraft are safe to resume flights the better!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Before bashing the airline (which is warranted), we need to thank the flight crew especially the Captain and First officer for their professionalism in making the decision to divert. Having said that, I will agree that changes need to be made at CAL with the way things are done. Questions need to also be answered relative to the acquisition of the Max8 aircraft. Did we really need to go this way? What were the alternatives, if any?

    • Anonymous says:

      The alternatives included Airbus, Embrear, Airbus and Airbus.

      I would have gone (and would still go) with Airbus, personally.

      • Anonymous says:

        12:18 Read up on the A320 series incident record before posting comments like that. A good friend, and former instructor of mine, is a captain on these aircraft in the UK and they say the aircraft they’re flying are a mess. It seems they just don’t age well and start getting very troublesome after a relatively short service life.

        • Say it like it is says:

          3.27pm And how many of the A320 series have treated their passengers to the hell on earth of straight up and straight down yoyo manouvres lasting many minutes before the final death plunge?.

          • Anonymous says:

            have you not seen when the A320 was first built, and the A330 control malefactions with Qantas? do the research please.

        • Anonymous says:


  11. Anonymous says:

    the end is near for cal. not a bad thing. they have ripped off millions of passengers with a 5 star price for 3 star quality.

    • Anonymous says:

      Never heard of that site but certainly heard of TripAdvisor whose members have a different view on quality and service of Cayman Airways.

      • Anonymous says:

        Did you actually read the reviews? Of the 20 most recent reviews there were 16 only scoring CAL at 1. Think the average score at the top of 3.5 is driven by the older reviews – back when the schedule hadn’t been shot to bits by a combination of maintenance problems on old aircraft and trying to fly a schedule designed for the MAXs.

        • Anonymous says:

          don’t worry you are talking to caymanian with blind devotion to their loss making ‘national airline’

        • Anonymous says:

          So you are denying the good reviews?

          • Anonymous says:

            No. Just pointing out that the good often balances the bad and more limited reviews don’t have the depth of information needed to make the full assessment. If you check both sites the OP cited 21 reviews to make an attack on CAL because it matches their perception. The reply cited 300 reviews which showed CAL a “Travelers’ Choice 2019 Winner”.

            I’m not the OP but I did read the Trip Advisor reviews. Lots of bad ones but often around the same issue or flights. Some of which can be attributed to the Max8/scheduling problems. But no excuses for the Brac debacles. Nor poor customer service. However it still adds up to about as much good as bad over time, which is counter to the OP’s claim that the end is near for CAL due to bad reviews.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Heads need to roll at CAL in their arrogance they purchased new max 8 planes that we could never afford and now cannot operate due to the unforeseen grounding. We now have to operate this older plane for longer than was planned, possibly putting passengers at risk.

    Furthermore at what point do the Cayman Islands people realize that we cannot afford a national airline. We could use the $50m per year subsidy for education and infrastructure.

    • Anonymous says:

      At least keep CAL express we need the connection between the islands.

      • Anonymous says:

        You’ve got paving equipment pave a road to Grand.

      • Taxpayer says:

        A major component of CAL’s endless subsidies over the last decades is the Brackers egocentric desire to be provided with jet service when every other airline on such short routes uses shorthaul prop aircraft.

        • BeaumontZodecloun says:

          You’re way off base there. Brackers don’t CARE what plane they take off the Brac, they care that it’s on time and reasonable comfortable. That’s why few Brackers ever take the jet if they can’t help it; most prefer the Saab first (more leg room than the jet), and the Otter.

          It isn’t the Brackers’ desire to have a jet. They just want reliable service. I’m sure the same goes for L.C.

        • Anonymous says:

          Here we go with the Brac bashing again.

    • Anonymous says:

      We do not need to spend more money on education. We just need to waste less of the money we spend on education.

    • Anonymous says:

      Which politicians you know are going to dump that kind of money into education? The dumbing down of the Cayman people is necessary to keep their votes for the next election..

      As far as infrastructure, government is in DART’s pocket for this so don’t look for this to change much..

    • Anonymous says:

      9:51 you have a short memory of Ivan!

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