Northern Ireland

EasyJet and Belfast International Airport respond to report

Easyjet plane
Image caption An Easyjet plane was evacuated at Belfast International Airport.

A number of procedural failings have been highlighted in a report by the Air Accident Investigation Branch into the evacuation of an aircraft at Belfast International Airport.

On 6 January 2011, an Easyjet flight from Liverpool had to be evacuated after it landed when smoke was spotted in the cabin

Passengers had to be evacuated from the plane using the emergency slides.

EasyJet has said at no time was the safety of those on board compromised.

There were 46 passengers onboard the flight and six crew members. One passenger suffered minor injuries.

Emergency Situation

The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) is part of the Department for Transport and is responsible for the investigation of civil aircraft accidents and serious incidents within the UK and its overseas territories. Their bulletin which detailed this incident was released on the 10 May 2012. It can be found here.

The following issues were highlighted in the report

  • The cabin manager did not activate the evacuation alarm
  • The co-pilot made a MAYDAY call. However he had not re-selected the transmit switch from the cabin system so the call was not transmitted to Air Traffic Control.
  • 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 commander shut off the engines when he heard the forward cabin doors open before the passengers vacated.
  • Idle reverse thrust remained selected as the plane vacated the runway.

In the AAIB's evaluation of the incident, they stated that the cabin manager should have waited for the commander to initiate the evacuation and should have used the emergency call function to alert the commander

It also said the use of the evacuation alarm by the cabin manager would have provided a clear signal to crew that an evacuation had been initiated.

The AAIB suggested that easyJet introduce a new briefing format for cabin crew to use when communicating with flight crew in emergency situations and to carry out training in the use of reverse thrust.

Easyjet have responded by saying that no passengers were evacuated with engines running or while the aircraft was moving and at no time were passengers or crew placed in danger.

"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.

"Immediately following the event on 6 January 2011, easyJet worked closely with the UK AAIB as well as launching its own 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

The report also highlighted a number of procedural failings at Belfast International Airport, including that the runway and taxiways at Belfast had been treated with potassium acetate and urea during the day, to prevent ice forming; this information was not communicated to the inbound aircraft.

The airport recognised that the buses used to transport the passengers and crew had been parked in the open and their windscreens were frozen. This delayed deployment of buses.

It also acknowledged that no passenger headcount was carried out on the buses prior to leaving the aircraft.

Belfast International Airport said in a statement: "We welcome this thorough report by the AAIB which sets out clearly what happened. How airport emergency services and agents responded and the lessons to emerge from it.

"All AAIB recommendations in relation to the airport and its procedures have been implemented in full.

"In addition, the airport conducted its own thorough review and produced its own recommendations. Most of these recommendations have been implemented."

The airport's internal report contained 16 recommendations to improve the airport operator's response to a similar event in the future.

AAIB bulletins contain facts which have been determined up to the time of issue. This information is published to inform the aviation industry and the public of the general circumstances of accidents and serious incidents and must necessarily be regarded as tentative and subject to alteration or correction if additional evidence becomes available.

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