LONDON – 30 years ago, on January 8, 1989, British Midland Flight 92 went down on the embankment of the M1 Motorway near East Midlands Airport. This crash, in particular, changed how much further aviation safety would be taken and how it has evolved to the point that we are at today.
British Midland Flight 92 was a scheduled service between London-Heathrow and Belfast International Airport, operated by
During the flight, a fan-blade broke in the number-one engine, which interrupted the aircraft’s environmental system, filling the flight deck in thick smoke.
It was understood by the pilots that the fault was in the right engine and not the left, which gave the prognosis of human error as it was mistakenly shut down.
This was, however, a coincidence as when the autothrottle was shut down to the right engine, the fuel flow to the left engine was reduced, meaning that the excess fuel which had been ignited disappeared.
The crew then pumped more fuel into the malfunctioning one, which then caused the damaged engine to break out into flames.
When the right engine was shut down, mysteriously, the smell of smoke had disappeared, which made the pilots believe it was the right-hand engine.
At this point, when the aircraft was on final approach into East Midlands Airport, the pilots attempted to windmill the right engine back into ignition, which is to use the air flowing through the engine to rotate the turbine blades.
The aircraft was too slow for this as its speed was around 115 mph. The aircraft went into a stall, striking the ground just by the M1 Motorway before bouncing back into the air and over the motorway, later crashing onto the Embankment.
Thirty-nine out of the 118 people onboard were killed upon impact, with eight more later perishing of their injuries, bringing the count to 47 casualties in total.
All eight members of crew onboard survived, with 74 out of the 79 survivors suffering either serious or minor injuries.
This air disaster resulted in up to 31 safety recommendations being made for airlines across the world.
Such evaluation focused on considerable improvements in aircraft safety and emergency instructions for passengers via flight safety cards and cabin crew demonstrations.
The UK’s Civil Aviation Administration (CAA) awarded funding to the University of Nottingham and Hawtal Whiting Structures to assess the effectiveness of the brace position that was in effect at that time.
This research ultimately led to new notices being sent to operators in October 1993, four years later, to revise the brace position that we see today.
Later down the line, it resulted in the formation of the International Board for Research into Aircraft Crash Events (IBRACE) in November 2016.
This organization sets out an internationally approved set of brace positions for passengers and cabin crew members in certain seating configurations.
It also encouraged structured programmes of research with European airworthiness authorities into passenger seat design with emphasis on aft-facing passenger seats and effective upper torso restraint.
Captain Hunt and First Officer McClelland were later dismissed by the airline following the criticisms of the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB).
However, British Midland did later pay FO McClelland an out-of-court settlement for unfair dismissal, suggesting that the pilots were not totally to blame in the accident.
Where we are at now, 30 years on
While this accident was an extreme tragedy, it has produced some of the most significant safety amendments to the aviation industry.
Although pilot error was a factor, it was also down to the manufacturer to fix and improve safety procedures.
Without learning from the mistakes made at Kegworth, we would not be in the position now where air crash numbers are reducing year after year as well as having technologies in place to prevent such accidents from happening again.
The Brace Position is something that should be valued by passengers and listened to a lot more by them too. Flight Attendants are not just there to look pretty, to say the least. They are there to save your life.
30 years on, those affected from the crash, from the survivors, to those in the area at the time, it will be a ponder of reflection into their lost loved ones and to loved ones which have been severely affected by this crash.
It is something that, for me in the UK Aviation Industry, an element of gratefulness for these safety enhancements to have been made, but should not have been at the expense of those that lost their lives or were severely injured.