An aircraft's blinking taillight was mistaken for a fire by the crew of a Jet Airways flight taking off from Mumbai last August leading to an emergency evacuation in which 25 passengers were injured.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) report on the incident, which was submitted on Monday, blames the flight's crew of misinforming the pilot.
The pilot ordered the emergency evacuation even though the air traffic control (ATC) denied having spotted a fire in the aircraft, and the plane's automatic fire alarm not going off, the aviation regulator's report states.
The incident occurred on August 27 last year when a Chennai-bound flight was taxiing for take off at the Mumbai airport. Four passengers suffered fractures while being evacuated from the aircraft through plastic chutes attached to the exits. Twenty-one others suffered minor injuries.
According to the report, once the false fire alarm was raised, the cabin crew in-charge confirmed it without checking the aircraft wing. "The fire alarm was raised by two crew members, who were travelling as passengers. One of them is the husband of the cabin crew in-charge. The crew in-charge did not open the aircraft door to examine if there was a fire," said a senior DGCA official requesting anonymity.
The DGCA report adds that the cabin crew personnel, who mistook the aircraft's anti-collision lights as fire, had boarded the flight after a hectic session of fire drills.
The report blames the pilot for lacking "situational awareness". "Evacuation should be ordered only when one is sure about an emergency on board. In this case, the pilot should have taken the aircraft to a parking bay and off-loaded passengers normally," said the DGCA official.
The report adds that the cabin crew in-charge also "mishandled the evacuation process". The plane's door over the left wing should not have been opened because the suspected fire was spotted below the left engine. "The cabin crew chief did not ensure proper preparation of the cabin for evacuation and also failed to give proper instruction for orderly evacuation," the report states. "The cabin crew chief failed to justify her role as cabin crew in-charge."
The report also points out gaps in the airline's training program. Statements from the crew revealed that they were not taught to identify the location of certain navigational and anti-collision lights in an aircraft. The crew confessed that the training sessions did not discuss ways to spot fire in a plane's engine.