An alleged safety violation that took place on board an Air India flight operating between Delhi and Seoul via Hong Kong on April 8 could have caused panic in the event of a mid-air emergency.
The last minute replacement of the Boeing 777-200LR aircraft (eight doors) with a Boeing 777-300ER (10 doors) resulted in the alleged violation as the airline did not have enough flight attendants to man all the ten exit doors. One attendant is required to man each door. As a result, minutes before take-off, one door (R5) was declared non-functional.
"Despite having spare flight crew on ground they blocked one door to operate the flight," said an airline official requesting anonymity.
According to standard operating procedures, an aircraft engineer has to make an entry in the cabin maintenance log book before an exit door is declared non-operational. In this case, this procedure was not followed, said sources.
Worse, during its journey between Hong Kong and Seoul two exit doors facing each other were declared non-operational because only eight flight attendants were present on the flight.
According to rules laid down by Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), when two opposite exits are blocked, the airline is supposed to vacate passengers' seats around that area of the aircraft. However, in this case the entire cabin was packed with passengers. "It is a safety violation because none of the two doors were manned. An emergency evacuation could have resulted in panic on board," said Captain Mohan Ranganathan, an aviation expert.
Sources said that the procedures for blocking two exits were also not followed completely. According to the procedure, flight crew is supposed to put placards stating "inoperative" on such doors. Also, placards should be placed on top of exit signs so that they are not illuminated during an emergency.
"On flight AI 310, one door was declared unserviceable as per the provision in the minimum equipment list approved by the DGCA," said an AI spokesperson, denying any such violation.