Recommendation follows Ryanair Stansted incident, when passengers left 737 on same side as smoking engine
Airport fire and rescue teams attending an incident should advise the flightcrew which aircraft exits are best for a passenger emergency evacuation, the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has recommended to the Civil Aviation Authority.
The AAIB's report on an emergency evacuation from a Ryanair Boeing 737-800 (EI-CSA) at London Stansted airport on 27 February 2002 reveals that some passengers began escaping via all the right-hand exits when the hazard was the engine on the same side emitting smoke.
The seven crew and 117 passengers all evacuated safely within 90s, but the pilots had turned the aircraft to a position that put the damaged engine upwind of the fuselage.
In its report, the AAIB referred to the fatal 1985 British Airtours 737-200 accident during a take-off run at Manchester. In that incident, a left engine mechanical failure had caused a fierce wing fire, and although air traffic control had told the crew there was a fire in the left wing, they made a right exit from the runway before stopping, putting the fire upwind of the fuselage, which was rapidly engulfed in flames, killing 55 people.
In the Ryanair case, however, the crew had detected vibration in the right engine during the approach - but it was indicated to be within limits - and were not told about smoke from the engine until they had already made their runway exit.
Following airline standard operating procedures, the captain ordered the evacuation, but left it to the cabin crew to decide which exits to use, and they used them all. About 40 people left the aircraft on the side of the smouldering engine, and six began evacuation via the right overwing exits, but were told by the fire crews to re-enter the aircraft and make their exits elsewhere. The cabin crew found some exits difficult to open because they were "armed" to deploy escape slides, which they found unfamiliar.
The technical problem causing the vibration and smoke - but not actual fire - was found to be failure of the engine's No 4 bearing, which the AAIB says is the unit most often subject to failure in CFM International CFM56 engines.
DAVID LEARMOUNT / LONDON
Source: Flight International