On the ground when we get on a plane, the first thing we see when the doors go to close is the safety video or a safety demonstration – and hopefully a lot of us pay attention to it.
However, there are bigger issues on the ground as Flight reports – and it’s enough to make you want to head to the small room.
The incident occurred on 14th April 2011, when passengers aboard a Ryanair 737-800 witnessed a ground collision between the aircraft they were on and an American Airlines 767-300.
Even though both of the aircraft came together on the ground, passengers aboard the Ryanair 737 failed convince the severity of the incident to the cabin crew, who in turn failed to inform the cockpit crew correctly to prevent either aircraft departing and that both aircraft had made contact with each other on the tarmac.
The Ryanair 737 appeared to strike the AA 767 on a stabiliser as the Ryanair 737 headed to a hold-point at Barcelona, awaiting a take-off from runway 25L .
Even though passenger spoke to a flight attendant, investigators state that “deficiencies in the communications” between cabin crew and the pilots meant that the severity of the incident went unrecognised for what had occurred.
Both aircraft took off (and thankfully landed safely). The Ryanair 737 came away with a scratched winglet on the starboard side. However, the more worrying damage was to the AA 767 which had a gash in its outboard left-hand horizontal stabiliser. The damage was enough for it to be withdrawn for service and repair.
The Spanish investigation authority blame a language issue with a passenger leaving their seat and communicating to the crew in Spanish, which meant the crew had difficulty understanding. The severity of it was missed even when a passenger told the cabin crew in English that they thought that the Ryanair 737 had hit the AA 767.
More worryingly, when the message was relayed to the cockpit, only a single chime bell was used (as opposed to three chimes) and the captain “did not sense much concern” in the flight attendant’s voice.
The Spanish investigation authority says:
“The captain was under the impression that only one passenger had witnessed the contact, and not several as she later discovered,”
“She said that her decision to continue with the flight would probably have been different if she had known that several passengers had reported contact.”
Meanwhile, aboard the American Airlines 767, neither of the pilots were aware of the collision – or the damage that had been caused to that aircraft.
The Spanish Authorities says the cockpit-voice recorders were overwritten and acceleration information from the flight-data recorder could not identify the precise moment of the collision, and investigators could not draw up a detailed analysis of the geometry, and thus no blame is apportioned even though there was a massive communication breakdown – apart from a recommendation to Ryanair it reassess its training for on-board communications.
There are some good pictures of the damage at AVHerald which I urge you to look at.
And then ask – how the hell did this happen without both captains realising something had happened? And why the hell did either of those aircraft end up in the air (and in one case, heading to New York on a damaged stabiliser?)
This really makes the mind boggle when airlines have safety drilled in further and further to everyone.
Maybe both airlines need to take a step back and analyse what safety is – and what the impact of incidents like this could had been… because I would NOT like to had been aboard EITHER aircraft after that event – let alone fly on them.