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10 Jet Airways crew grounded over false alarm

Last updated: 28 August, 2010
Mumbai, Aug 28, DH News Service: 0:26 IST

Passengers had a nightmarish experience

The false fire alarm on a Chennai-bound Jet Airways flight on Friday night that led to faulty emergency evacuation of the plane, has compelled the aviation watchdog Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to suspend the entire six-member crew of the flight and four additional staff on Saturday.

Around 9.00 pm on Friday night, the Mumbai-Chennai Jet flight 9W2302 with 153 passengers on board was on the taxiway for the take off.

A passenger reportedly noticed smoke near the left engine and alerted the crew member. The flight commander decided to evacuate the flight immediately and what followed was “serious lapses in emergency procedures” as a result of which 26 passengers were injured in a minor stampede.

Jet Airways, on the other hand, maintained that the emergency exit doors of the plane were opened by frightened passengers and not by the cabin crew. But the carrier said it was willing to accept any action after the investigation is over.

According to aviation sources, contrary to what Jet Airways said, it was the Jet Airways cabin crew that panicked and opened all the exit doors. In the process, they also opened the left side emergency door in the middle although fire was reported on that side of the plane.

The crew informed the flight commander, who alerted the Air Traffic Control and ordered an emergency evacuation of the Boeing 737 twin engine plane. Emergency slides were deployed and 153 panic stricken passengers were deplaned using the chutes.

Fire engines were rushed to the spot, but no fire was found. However, in the scuffle that followed to exit the aircraft from all four exits, passengers jumped out of the safety chutes tumbling over each other and some of them sustained minor injuries and fractures.

Those injured were administered first aid and 11 of them were admitted to Nanavati hospital. Except two, others were discharged. “Well just like any emergency situation, the thing was to escape somehow and I too had the same feeling,” said a passenger.
Some passengers, however, were critical of the Jet Airways staff and said they were pushed and literally thrown out of the aircraft. After the evacuation, 117 passengers were accommodated on an additional flight to Chennai, which arrived there little after 2.00 am. Eight passengers left to Chennai on Saturday monring.

In a statement, Jet Airways said: “Although there were no visible traces of a fire, the commander proceeded to declare a precautionary emergency. All passengers onboard were then deplaned safely and a thorough inspection of the engine carried out. Safety of our guests is of paramount importance to Jet Airways.”

It was later found that there was no fire alarm by the fire detection system installed in the plane. In fact, the crew members of another flight travelling on the plane raised the alarm first.

Separate inquiries

The DGCA and Jet Airways have ordered separate inquiries into the incident. Among the suspended Jet Airways crew members were the pilot, first officer and four cabin crew members, while four additional staff too were suspended.

The DGCA has now called for a meeting of the heads of training of all airlines to review the training procedures of cabin and flight crews, particularly in emergency and evacuation procedures.

The DGCA has removed the Cockpit Voice Recorder and the Digital Flight Data Recorder to analyse recordings of voices and other parameters of the aircraft.

The DGCA said it was treating the incident as “serious” and added that a formal investigation would be carried out by a team comprising Director Air safety Mumbai, Flight Operation Inspector and Cabin Safety Incharge of DGCA.

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