Jet Airways incident at Mumbai — DGCA release preliminary report, crew suspended

A Jet Airways Boeing 737-800 registration VT-JGM operating Jet Airways Konnect flight 9W-2302 from Mumbai CSI airport to Chennai Kamaraj airport, India, with 139 passengers and six crew, was taxing on taxiway N parallel to runway 09-27 having pushed back from stand A-6 at 20:47 (15:17Z). At 20:55 (15:25Z) the captain declared a port side engine (i.e. left side , engine 1) fire, which activated the emergency services.

The aircraft rescue and fire fighting (ARFF) vehicles took position on port side the aircraft by 20:58 (15:58Z) and reported there was no visible indication of fire. The crew evacuated the aircraft via slides while on taxiway N which was completed by 21:02 (15:32Z).

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Doctors at the airport attended to 25 passengers who suffered injuries during the evacuation process. 13 passengers were sent to area hospitals (11 to Nanavati Hospital and 2 to Sujay hospital) for diagnosis and treatment, including suspected fractures.

Jet Airways carried 117 passengers on a delayed flight operated with another aircraft at 23:57 (18:27Z)

The incident has been referred to India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

TV media reports indicate the DGCA has already found the crew actions highly questionable and suspect lapse on part of both the flight and cabin crew, of standard operating procedures. The crew has been de-rostered pending the detailed investigation.

Apparently the “fire alarm” was raised by passenger(s) in the rear of the aircraft who confused the anti-collision beacon and strobes and their reflections of the engine casing, as sparks coming from the engine.

The cabin crew informed the flight commander who declared a fire emergency and ordered an evacuation, without physical verification, despite a lack of any alert on instruments and reports by the ARFF crew of no visible indication of fire.

The cabin crew, lost control of the situation instead of taking charge and attempting to calm the passengers, thus aggravated the situation leading to a panic. The cabin crew allowed passengers to use the slides wearing shoes and carrying bags, a serious breech of safety procedures. This damaged the slides, further constricted the passages and exits which aided the stampede and caused panicked passengers to jump from the aircraft leading to the injuries sustained.

Despite contrary reports and alleged lack of instrument indications, the evacuation was ordered on the single active taxiway of the airport’s primary runway, during the peak period, severely hampering airport flight operations.

Bangalore Aviation made multiple attempts by phone, e-mail and SMS text, to contact the airline for a statement of its version of developments, but did not receive any response till the time of this article. We will post the airline’s statement when received.

Update 1 – 16:30 IST (11:00Z)
A statement received from Jet Airways

Jet Airways 9W 2302 from Mumbai to Chennai initiated a precautionary evacuation on the taxiway due to a suspected fire around the left engine. The precautionary evacuation was carried out in the interest of safety of the passengers and the crew. The crew carried out the evacuation in accordance with standard operating procedures.

Subsequent inspection of the engine has indicated that there was no fire.

A formal inquiry has been initiated by the DGCA and Jet Airways is fully co-operating and providing all necessary assistance.

The welfare of our guests and crew is of prime importance and Jet Airways is taking appropriate steps to ensure the same.

Guests travelling on that flight were immediately afforded alternate travel arrangements via an additional flight 9W 2302, which departed Mumbai for Chennai at 2357 hrs with 117 guests onboard.

During the process of evacuation, twelve guests sustained injuries and were duly administered medical assistance and taken to nearby hospitals. Out of the twelve guests, 8 have been released this morning and have proceeded to Chennai. Jet Airways Medical personnel have been onsite at the hospitals and have been co-ordinating the medical assistance provided to the remaining four guests.

Safety is of paramount importance to Jet Airways and we regret the inconvenience caused to our guests. Jet Airways would like to express its gratitude to the crew, the airport staff, the medical staff, MIAL and all other agencies for providing their timely assistance and support.

This is the second incident in less than a year where the crew actions of Jet Airways are suspect. About ten months ago on October 20, 2009, a check pilot on-board a Jet Airways Boeing 737-900ER VT-JGC allegedly performed what is consider in aviation circles an extremely reckless and risky act — he pulled the circuit-breakers on a regular revenue flight from Delhi to Mumbai. It appears that the check pilot is back on duty with Jet Airways despite such a serious lapse.

Update 2 – 18:30 IST (13:00Z)

India’s aviation regulator the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has put out this initial report.

DGCA Finds Serious Procedural Lapses In the Incident of the Jet Airways Flight 9W2302 In Mumbai Yesterday

Pilot and Crew Suspended

Preliminary fact finding by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has indicated serious procedural lapses in dealing with the emergency and evacuation situation as per existing procedures laid down in aircraft rules and regulations, by the operating aircraft crew members of the Jet airways flight 9W2302 scheduled to fly from Mumbai to Chennai yesterday. Hence the Pilot in Command (PIC), First officer, four cabin crew members and four ACMs [additional crew members i.e. off-duty crew] have been suspended till further orders. This incident has been treated as serious incident and will be investigated under rule 77C of Aircraft Rules 1937 by a team comprising of Director Air safety Mumbai, Flight Operation Inspector and Cabin Safety Incharge of DGCA.

On 27 August 2010, the Captain and the First Officer were operating the flight 9W2302 on Mumbai-Chennai Sector. There were four cabin crew members, as per the requirements; 131 passengers including one infant and Nine Additional crew members (8 cabin crew + one trainee Pilot). During the taxing of aircraft, an Additional Crew Member (ACM), travelling as a passenger, seated on 35A apparently observed fire on the Left Engine and informed another ACM also travelling as a passenger, seated on 35B, who also claimed to have seen the fire. The ACM seated on 35B immediately went back and contacted Captain from aft right door location(R-2). He also informed Cabin crew assigned for aft left door (L2). Pilot immediately asked L2 cabin crew to confirm the fire and report. She also confirmed to the Captain.

The PIC, on receiving the confirmation pulled the fire handles for left engine, right engine and APU. However he did not discharge any of the fire bottles. PIC ordered the evacuation from the aircraft. Escape slide on front and aft doors on the right side (R1 & R2) and both the over wing emergency exits were deployed. On the left side, the aft door (L2) and rear over wing emergency exit were also deployed. The airport fire and rescue services personnel immediately reached the site. During the evacuation, 14 passengers sustained injuries. After the evacuation the aircraft inspection was carried out in the night time under supervision of DGCA team. No fire or smoke was observed in the engine area. Both the engines were checked and boroscope inspection was carried out. No abnormality was observed in engines and its systems. CVR and DFDR have been removed.

The DGCA has also called for a meeting of the Heads of training of all Airlines to review the training procedures of cabin and flight crews, particularly in emergency and evacuation procedures.

Taxiway N is parallel to the left of the main active runway 27 i.e. the runway would be on the right side of the aircraft.

The main question that comes to mind is that it is normal procedure for crew never to open the exits on the side of the aircraft with the fire, which in this case was the left, yet the exits, especially overwing (closest to a left side engine fire) were opened. Why??

The exits on the right were also opened which is correct procedure, but the main active runway is on the right, and one cannot have evacuating passengers running away from an aircraft towards an active runway. Was air traffic control informed and runway operations suspended prior to opening the right side doors?

There is much more to this incident and the full truth will have to be determined.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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