A forward exit door on a PIA Pakistan International Airlines ATR-42-500 opened during landing yesterday, Sunday 23 February.
The incident, reported in The Aviation Herald, concerned PIA flight PK631 which operated from Islamabad to Sukkur. The operating aircraft is registered as AP-BHM.
Conflicting reports about how the door opened
According to the report, the forward left emergency exit door fell into the aircraft when the plane touched down at Sukkar. The ATR42-500 has several doors. In this incident, the door is identified in the illustration below as the emergency exit type III door.
The aircraft completed the landing without incident and there were no reported injuries.
There are conflicting reports about how the door opened, whether the jolt of the landing caused the door to open by itself or whether it was human error.
A passenger, Fahmida Iqbal Khan, who works as a human rights and gender activist, was on the flight. She posted this on Twitter;
Emergency door of #PK631 got broken today, the moment it touched base #Sukkur #Airport. Had it happened few seconds before it landed, we would have become the past & our names would have written in one of those who lost their #lives during plane crashes.
Please stop flying #ATR pic.twitter.com/TFUamNO0s3
— Fahmida Iqbal Khan (@FahmidaIqbal) February 23, 2020
Reports door accidentally opened by a passenger
Simple Flying has approached PIA to clarify exactly what happened. At the time of publication, we had not heard back from the airline. But there are reports that PIA made a statement saying the door was accidentally opened by a passenger.
Fahmida Iqbal Khan disputes this version of events, calling it a lie.
But the rabbit hole that is the internet led us to an online forum called the History of PIA. Whilst not endorsing its veracity, contributors to the forum raised several points.
Fahmida Iqbal Khan was sitting away from the exit. She was at the tail end of the aircraft. One contributor, who says he is a friend of Fahmida Iqbal Khan, says she witnessed everything. However, if you are towards the rear of an ATR42 and buckled in for a landing, you do not have a clear and unobstructed view of the far forward cabin.
Photographs posted on the forum by passengers suggest that the door was not broken. As another contributor noted, “the inner door is still inside the aircraft which implies it was probably opened by someone from inside.”
PIA is reported saying a passenger opened the door
A final contributor cites a PIA spokesperson as saying;
“The emergency exit door got opened when a passenger used door’s handle as a support for getting up from seat. The incident did not damage the aircraft and no one was hurt.”
This does make sense. It should also be noted that while the incident was undoubtedly frightening, footage posted on Youtube following the exit door opening shows the aircraft completing its roll. The Flight Attendant seated next to the door and passengers onboard the aircraft display an admirable degree of nonchalance. It does suggest the Flight Attendant was aware that it was not a mechanical failure. The fact that the passenger near the door who accidentally opened the door remained seated also suggests it was just that – an accident.
Twice is unlucky, three times could be awkward
This is the second issue PIA has had with passengers opening exit doors within the past year.
In June 2019, a passenger accidentally opened an exit door on a PIA jet bound for Islamabad. Fortunately, the aircraft was still on the ground in Manchester. However, the escape slide was automatically deployed and the aircraft was delayed by six hours. The passenger was looking for the toilet.
The ATR42-500 was held on the ground in Sukkar for several hours before resuming flying. The aircraft arrived into Islamabad at 20:00 Sunday where it has remained on the ground. It should be noted, however, that this aircraft does not normally operate flights throughout the night.
Should PIA provide us with further information, we’ll update accordingly.