MIAMI – The UK AAIB has released the serious incident report for the Laudamotion (OE) aircraft at London Stansted Airport (STN). The incident occurred on March 1, 2019, and the report highlights many of the challenges that still exist in cabin safety.
On the evening of March 1, 2019, a Laudamotion A320, OE-LOA, was taking off from STN. At take-off, the left engine experienced a contained engine failure. The Flight Crew rejected the take-off. As they were preparing to taxi, the Senior Flight Attendant called for an evacuation.
The evacuation took place without the Flight Crew’s knowledge; therefore, one engine was still running. This was evident during the deployment of slide 3R where it was horizontal to the ground. The Flight Attendant blocked the exit.
The Flight Attendants then directer passengers to exit out of door 3L as well as the forward exits.
In interviews with the Cabin Crew, the report states that there was unclarity of the severity of the situation. There was no attempt to contact the Flight Crew after the engine failure and before the evacuation. However, the training given to the Cabin Crew did not include Pilot interactions.
As there was a difference in understanding of the situation, the evacuation began with the right engine still running. This is a hazardous situation that has caused serious injury in other events.
It is fortunate that the Pilot in Command noted that the evacuation had started. However, it was still two minutes from this alert to when the engine was shutdown. There was a heightened risk of serious injury to passengers who might have passed in front of or behind the engine.
Some passengers reported that they exited via door 2R (the overwing exit) directly into the path of the exhaust. The engine blew them over along with some belongings. There were overall only minor physical injuries, but a number of passengers report post-traumatic stress.
Cabin Baggage and Evacuation Delays
The AAIB report highlights again a major issue regarding cabin safety during evacuations. In short, passengers will take the time to get their cabin baggage before exiting the cabin.
One passenger reported that they believed that about 50% of the passengers took their baggage with them. When the Flight Crew checked the cabin after the evacuation, they found baggage piled near the exits.
With the use of cell phones during evacuations, it can be seen that passengers are also taking large rolling bags. The amount of cabin baggage has increased in the last years, especially on airlines that charge for checking bags.
While each passenger hopefully would only take a few seconds to grab their bags, these seconds add up. It would also be expected that an increase in cabin baggage on board would cause an increase in baggage-retrieval time.
Evacuation should take 90 seconds or less, especially in hazardous conditions. The level of hazard is not always evident to passengers, leading to the feeling that a delay would be acceptable.
If there is a bottleneck in the cabin and enough passengers take bags, it puts the passengers behind at risk. Cabin baggage can also damage the slides. They can get caught on items in the cabin, further hindering the evacuation.
However, even in accidents where there was severe damage to the aircraft and fire, 50% of passengers still took their baggage.
Cabin Evacuation Recommendations
Several aviation safety sources have made a number of recommendations on this topic. However, everyone agrees that it is a challenging one. The Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS)released in June 2020 the second edition of Emergency Evacuation of Commercial Passenger Aeroplanes, and cabin baggage is a hot topic.
The RAeS points out “that cabin Crew has little control over passengers who insist on taking baggage with them in an evacuation.”
For more long term solutions, the ability to lock the overhead bins has been discussed. However, it might be the case that locking the bins might end up causing more of a delay. Passengers would then spend more time trying to get the bins to open.
In any case, as with other aspects of cabin safety, the industry should conduct more research on this topic to see what the more promising options could be. For now, we have the hope that the carrying of cabin baggage during an evacuation does not cause serious injury or death to passengers.
Featured image: Laudamotion Airbus A320-200 aircraft with registration OE-LOA landing at Düsseldorf International Airport DUS EDDL on February 27, 2019, just 2 days before the incident in London Stansted Airport in England, UK. Photo: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images.