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NEW DELHI: Its official now. Flyers ignore — to their peril — safety instructions cards kept in front pockets of all seats that clearly instruct not to carry hand baggage or have footwear on while evacuating an aircraft on inflatable chutes in an emergency. A government probe panel examining one such recent incident has asked the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to ask airlines to stress on the need for proper evacuation. How it is done remains to be seen as evacuating an aircraft in distress means handling panicky passengers trying to rush out as soon as possible with their hand bags.
The latest confirmation of this behaviour, observed globally with Indians being no exception, comes in the final probe report of a Jet Airways Boeing 737’s left side landing gear collapsing after landing in Khajuraho on April 13, 2015. The 59 passengers and eight crew members of this Varanasi-Khajuraho flight had to be evacuated using chutes from the plane on the runway.
“The cabin crew was not able to handle the passenger effectively as number of passengers sliding downs the escape slides with their cabin baggage’s and shoes,” the report of the committee of inquiry constituted by aviation ministry for this accident, which has been made public now, says.
It also points out Jet crew used left side slides for evacuation “even though left side engine (was) touching the runway and smoke at landing gear area as informed by ATC.” The airline has been asked to “review its evacuation procedures.”
“Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) may issue necessary circular to all scheduled airlines highlighting proper passenger evacuation procedure during such accidents,” it says.
This is not the first time that the issue of passengers evacuating an aircraft have been found to carry baggage with them.
In 2016, an Emirates flight from Kerala to Dubai had crash-landed in August 2016. The flight had 282 passengers on board of which 226 or over 80% were Indians. The preliminary report by UAE General Civil Aviation Authority had mentioned “passenger behaviour and carry-on baggage” during the crucial seconds when everyone on board miraculously evacuated the Boeing 777 just in time before it started burning. Based on cabin crew inputs, it said how flyers first stood up and then evacuated the plane with their hand bags despite being told not to by the crew.
“When the aircraft came to rest, some passengers were screaming, grabbing their belongings, and asking the cabin crew members to open the doors… Cabin crew… instructed passengers to leave their bags behind. However, several passengers evacuated the aircraft carrying their baggage,” the report had said.
Similarly, a DGCA probe into an an emergency evacuation of 176 flyers and six crew members carried out by IndiGo in Kathmandu on March 8, 2014. “It was observed from videos released after the incident that passengers had evacuated from the right side where the fire had occurred and also were seen evacuating on escape slides with the cabin’s luggage,” the report had said.
Now how the DGCA gets airlines to change passenger briefing to stress on the safe way of evacuation remains to be seen.
An airline’s instruction manual that clearly asks no shoes or hand bags while evacuating from a plane using slides.