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Pilot locked out of Jazz cabin mid-flight

WINNIPEG -- Many of us know that embarrassing feeling you get when you lock yourself out of your car.

Now imagine you did the same thing -- except you are on a plane, it is mid-flight, and you are the pilot, locked out of the cockpit after making a quick stop to the washroom.

The very thing happened onboard an Air Canada Jazz flight on Saturday, and the company confirmed Tuesday it is conducting an internal investigation into the incident that took place on the Bombardier CRJ-100 carrying as many as 50 passengers from Ottawa to Winnipeg.

At approximately 4:15 p.m., with approximately 20 minutes remaining on the two hour and 30 minute flight, the pilot on Flight 8475 apparently left the cockpit to use the washroom at the back of the plane, leaving the flight's First Officer in control of the plane.

A flight attendant remained in the cockpit with the First Officer.

However when the pilot returned, the door was apparently stuck -- or locked -- and the pilot was unable to return into the cockpit. (Mile High Club, baby! :big: )

For roughly 10 minutes, passengers described seeing the pilot bang on the door and communicating with the cockpit through an internal telephone, but being unable to open the cabin door.

Eventually, the crew forced the door open by taking the door off its hinges completely, and the pilot safely landed the plane -- although in the event that the pilot was unable to access the cockpit, the First Officer is trained to land the aircraft.

However, airline analysts warn that incidents like these are disasters waiting to happen -- both in terms of accidents related to human error and vulnerability to terrorism.

"(The pilot) can be taken hostage by someone in the plane with hostile intent," said Peter St. John, a Winnipeg-based security analyst. "There's sloppiness, there's inconsistency, and there are vulnerabilities that terrorists are going to notice, and they're going to see it and say this is easy pickings."

Air Canada insists that this is the first instance of this ever happening, but since being locked out of the cockpit is a "non-reportable" incident, there is no way of confirming their frequency as the airlines are under no obligation to report them.

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