Uncertainty about the over-wing exit route caused a delay in the evacuation of a Flybe Embraer E195. The findings were listed in a new report released by the United Kingdom’s Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) last week.
Thankfully aircraft evacuations are rare. However, they happen from time to time, most often due to a perceived danger to the passengers from remaining on the aircraft. Unfortunately, these evacuations don’t always happen as smoothly as hoped, as was the case with a Lauda Airbus A320 at London’s Stansted Airport in March 2019.
About the flight
The flight identified in the AAIB’s latest report was operated by the former British regional carrier Flybe. The airline ceased operations earlier this year following prolonged financial issues. The incident took place on February 28th, 2019. However, due to the time involved in investigating such incidents, the AAIB’s report has only recently been released.
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For the flight in question, Flybe was using an Embraer E195 aircraft registered as G-FBEJ. The plane has low wings with two General Electric Co CF34-10E7 turbofan engines mounted to the base of the wing. The incident took place at Exeter Airport ahead of a planned flight to Alicante in Spain. Five members of crew accompanied 100 passengers onboard flight BE4321.
According to the incident’s investigators, a full evacuation of G-FBEJ was ordered by the captain after an unusual odor accompanied by smoke was observed in the cockpit. The smell was first noticed as the aircraft backtracked down Runway 26 in preparation for departure.
Having lined up for the departure, the co-pilot held the aircraft’s brakes on while advancing the thrust lever to 55%. Smoke was then observed in the cockpit, and the thrust was brought back down to idle.
The incident was identified to have been attributed to “an incorrectly performed engine compressor wash procedure.” The smoke and fumes were caused by residual cleaning solution used to rinse particulates such as sand, dust, and salt from inside the engine.
Flaps for over-wing evacuations
As the flight had been due to depart, the aircraft’s flaps were set at the first stage. When the evacuation of the cabin is ordered, the flaps are supposed to be set to full. This allows passengers evacuating from the wing to slide down onto the ground, falling from a lower level.
Typically, while the aircraft is slowing, the flaps have ample time to lower. However, in this case, the plane hadn’t started its takeoff roll. When the engines were shut off, the power to the flaps was cut, meaning that they stopped at 7.2 degrees, just 0.3 degrees greater than the takeoff flap position.
The lack of lowered flaps is thought to have contributed to a chaotic evacuation from the aircraft. While passengers correctly used the overwing exits, they then stood on the wing, unhappy to jump down to the ground, given the height. As such, the crew had to escort them back inside the aircraft to evacuate down the main exit slides. The AAIB’s report identified nine passengers that initially evacuated through the over-wing exits before eventually using another door.
One member of the crew received minor injuries, while one passenger experienced serious injuries as a result of the incident. As a result, Flybe altered its cabin briefing to highlight that the E195’s overwing exits don’t have emergency escape slides. Following the incident, the aircraft involved didn’t fly again until mid-April.
What do you make of the incident? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!