06 August 2020

Stansted evacuation hindered by passengers removing hand luggage, report says

06 August 2020

A plane evacuation at Stansted Airport was hindered by passengers removing their hand luggage, an investigation has found.

One eyewitness told investigators that around half of the 169 travellers grabbed their cabin baggage from under their seats and overhead lockers before leaving the plane via emergency slides.

Several passengers reported being “impeded” by these people and shouted at them to leave their bags behind, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said.

Stansted plane evacuation (PA Media)

The incident involved an Airbus A320 aircraft operated by Austrian-airline Laudamotion, which suffered an engine failure as it was taking off for a flight to Vienna on March 1 last year.

Aviation rules require airlines to be able to evacuate all passengers and crew within 90 seconds.

Investigators said it is not possible to determine how long the Stansted evacuation took, but it was “probably slowed” by the hand luggage issue.

Ten people were treated for minor injuries such as cuts, grazes, bruises and sprains. Two were taken to hospital.

Problems caused by passengers taking baggage with them during an evacuation are “well documented”, the report stated.

Flight attendants who spot passengers with luggage need to remove it and store it – which can create an obstruction – while baggage taken off an aircraft can damage emergency slides or injure other people on the slides.

The report said this has “long been an issue” as it listed 14 previous incidents, including one in September 2015 involving a British Airways plane which caught fire during take-off in Las Vegas.

The AAIB found that the Stansted episode shows “this hazard will still exist in future emergencies unless additional measures are taken”.

It recommended that European aviation safety regulator Easa should commission research “to determine how to prevent passengers from obstructing aircraft evacuations by retrieving carry-on baggage”.

The Royal Aeronautical Society has previously urged airlines to consider introducing a system of locking overhead bins that do not contain emergency equipment during take-off and landing.

The report into the Laudamotion incident also found that the pilots did not know the plane was being evacuated until they saw passengers on the tarmac.

They were planning to move the stationary aircraft off the runway, but the senior flight attendant ordered the evacuation without speaking to anyone in the cockpit.

The report found that this was due to her inexperience, weak training and difficulty communicating with other flight attendants on board.

She was feeling “shocked and overwhelmed” by the engine failure – which caused a “loud bang” – and it “did not occur to her to contact the pilots”.

The inquiry found that passengers on the ground were at “risk of serious injury” due to one of the engines running during the evacuation.

The engine failure was caused by the release of several blades due to a component being “improperly assembled”.

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