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Passengers’ terror after steward wrongly ordered jet evacuation

PUBLISHED: 16:32 07 August 2020 | UPDATED: 17:44 07 August 2020

The incident happened in March last year at Stansted Airport.  Picture: STANSTED AIRPORT

The incident happened in March last year at Stansted Airport. Picture: STANSTED AIRPORT

Stansted airport

Passengers risked being sucked into a jet engine moments after fleeing their aircraft in an emergency evacuation at Stansted Airport.

An infra-red photograph taken from the Airbus shows passengers at the side of the plane following the evacuation. Picture: AAIBAn infra-red photograph taken from the Airbus shows passengers at the side of the plane following the evacuation. Picture: AAIB

A communication breakdown between the cockpit and cabin crew saw the senior flight attendant wrongly order the plane to be evacuated, a report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch said.

The surprise of the pilots turned to horror as they realised passengers who had evacuated were close to the still-operating right hand engine.

It took two minutes from the evacuation taking place for it to close down - during which time anyone wandering within 15ft of the air intake while it was still running had risked being sucked in.

Several who took the emergency slide on the right hand side of the plane were still knocked down by the blast from running engine exhaust, which produces speeds of up to 65mph or more even when running at idle.

A Laudamotion Airbus A320 similar to the one involved in the incident at Stansted. Picture: LAUDAMOTIONA Laudamotion Airbus A320 similar to the one involved in the incident at Stansted. Picture: LAUDAMOTION

Ten of the 169 passengers who were on board the twin engined Airbus A320 needed medical treatment for minor injuries. Two required hospital treatment.

“While the physical injuries sustained were minor, a few passengers stated...that they have suffered from post-traumatic stress which they were receiving treatment for,” the report said.

The incident happened on March 1 last year as the plane, operated by Austrian airline Laudamotion, was taxiing to the runway for take-off on an evening flight to Vienna.

The report said: “Shortly after the take-off roll was commenced it was rejected, due to a contained failure of the left engine, and the aircraft was brought to a stop on the runway.

The evacuation happened as the plane was taxiing to the runway for take-off to Vienna. Picture: STANSTED AIRPORTThe evacuation happened as the plane was taxiing to the runway for take-off to Vienna. Picture: STANSTED AIRPORT

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“Just as the flight crew were about to taxi the aircraft off the runway, an evacuation was commanded by the Senior Flight Attendant.

“The investigation identified several factors that contributed to this decision.”

The senior flight attendant told investigators she had little contact with the cockpit and there had been confusion with her fellow stewards after the engine failed.

The noise of it had been “very loud” and had scared her, a fellow steward had reported seeing flames and sparks coming from the engine and she had not heard the pilot order cabin crew to their positions.

Confusion grew as they attempted to communicate using a combination of the interphone, hand signals in poor light, and the PA system.

A handset had become tangled in a seat, further complicating communication, and she ordered the evacuation.

The report said the evacuation was hampered by passengers trying to retrieve their luggage from overhead lockers or trying to escape while holding it.

Laudamotion, once owned by former racing driver Niki Lauda, is a subsidiary of Ryanair.

The report said that following the incident Laudamotion had taken several safety actions, principally around the training of its flight attendants.

A Laudamotion spokesperson said: “Laudamotion welcomes the AAIB Report on an engine failure at London Stansted which acknowledges Laudamotion’s subsequent safety actions.”

Two safety recommendations regarding evacuation and how to prevent passengers from obstructing them by retrieving carry-on baggage were also made in the report.


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