Belfast Telegraph

Report highlights failings during plane's evacuation

By Lesley Houston

A report into an emergency on a plane after it landed in Belfast has highlighted room for improvement in the crew’s handling of the situation.

A number of procedural failings were highlighted in a report by the Air Accident Investigation Branch into the evacuation of an aircraft at Belfast International Airport on January 6, 2011.

An easyJet flight from Liverpool with 46 passengers had to be evacuated after smoke was spotted in the cabin after it landed.

The passengers left the plane using the emergency slides but the airline said at no time was safety on board ever compromised despite the emergency, though one suffered minor injuries.

In an investigation by air accident authorities, they called for the airline to introduce a new briefing format to staff after they noted a number of “procedural failings” in the crew’s operation of the evacuation.

They also mentioned a few issues at the airport which could be improved given a repeat of the situation.

In an evaluation by the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), it noted that the cabin manager had failed to activate the evacuation alarm.

Its bulletin on the emergency added that while the co-pilot had made a Mayday call, he had failed to re-select the transmit switch from the cabin system, meaning the call was not transmitted to Air Traffic Control. The bulletin reported that when the cabin manager initiated the evacuation by opening the cabin doors “the engines were still running which could have posed a significant hazard to passengers who have left the aircraft”.

The report noted that the commander did shut off the engines when he heard the doors open, before the passengers vacated.

EasyJet stressed no passengers had been evacuated while the engines were still running or while the aircraft was moving. “The safety and security of its passengers and crew is easyJet's highest priority. At no point during this incident was the safety of passengers and crew compromised. EasyJet meets and often exceeds all current safety standards.”

The budget airline added that, as a result of the emergency, it had worked closely with the UK AAIB and had launched an internal investigation.

“Our investigation found that the aircraft was evacuated quickly, efficiently and safely by easyJet's highly trained crew. It also made a number of recommendations to improve procedures still further, all of which were adopted early 2011. The AAIB was satisfied with the action taken by easyJet and made no further recommendations.”

Belfast International Airport welcomed the “thorough” report, saying that all recommendations “have been implemented in full” with most of 16 compiled as a result of its “own thorough review”.

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