DGCA to probe turbulence on SpiceJet flight: Scindia
At least 14 passengers and three cabin crew members were injured as cabin baggage fell on them during the turbulence faced by the SpiceJet flight on Sunday during descent at Durgapur airport.
New Delhi/Kolkata: The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has constituted a team to investigate the severe turbulence on SpiceJet’s Mumbai-Durgapur flight that left 17 people injured on Sunday evening, Union civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said on Monday.
The aviation regulator also took off the roster the flight’s crew, aircraft maintenance engineer (AME) and incharge of SpiceJet’s maintenance control centre, and has decided to carry out an inspection of the entire SpiceJet aircraft fleet, officials familiar with the matter said.
Taking note of Sunday’s incident, Scindia tweeted: “The turbulence encountered by a flight while landing in Durgapur, and the damage caused to the passengers is unfortunate. The @DGCAIndia has deputed a team to investigate the incident. The matter is being dealt with utmost seriousness & deftness. More details on the cause (s) will be shared once the investigation is completed.”
Flight SG 945 carrying 195 passengers (including two pilots and four cabin crew), which took off from Mumbai at 5.13pm on Sunday, encountered severe turbulence during its descent phase at Durgapur airport at around 7:15pm At least 14 passengers and three cabin crew members were injured as cabin baggage fell on them during the turbulence.
According to a DGCA official, “not only were the crew off-rostered, but also, the aircraft maintenance engineer (AME) who released the aircraft from Durgapur and in charge of maintenance control centre of SpiceJet pending investigation were off rostered.”
“The involved aircraft remains to be grounded at Kolkata. As a regulatory measure, the DGCA is carrying out inspection of the entire SpiceJet aircraft fleet,” the official added, asking not to be named.
Providing details of the incident, the DGCA official said: “During descent, the aircraft experienced severe turbulence and the vertical load factor varied from +2.64G and -1.36G. During this period, the autopilot got disengaged for two minutes and the crew manually flew the aircraft,” the official said.
Oxygen panels of Boeing B737-800 opened and the oxygen masks fell out due to the impact of the turbulence. The hand rest in a few seats and overhead decorative panels were damaged in the incident. While one cabin overhead bin lock was found broken, the galley items were seen strewn across on the floor and in the aisle, the official added.
The airline said the seat belt sign was on and multiple announcements were made by crew members asking passengers to remain seated during the turbulence. “Multiple announcements were made by the pilots and the crew instructing passengers to remain seated and keep their seat belt fastened. Due to severe turbulence, injuries were caused to a few passengers. Timely medical assistance was provided upon arrival,” an airline spokesperson said.
A passenger said they encountered turbulence before they could put on their seat belts. “Passengers were asked to fasten the seat belts. But before they could do it, the turbulence started. Those who could fasten the belt escaped unhurt. The others were just jumping on their seats. Everything had gone haywire,” Amit Baul, a passenger who was seated on the last row of the aircraft, said.
At least 14 passengers and three cabin crew suffered injuries related to head, spine, shoulder, forehead and face due to the turbulence, the DGCA official said, adding that they were shifted to the hospital after the aircraft landed.
“At present, three passengers are hospitalised. Two passengers are in the intensive care unit in a Durgapur hospital. One of the passengers who suffered a head injury is admitted in Diamond hospital; another with a spinal injury is in Mission hospital,” the official said.
Two passengers were injured after they were reportedly hit by the food trolley, a second DGCA official said. “The food services should have been stopped when the seat belt signs were put on and all passengers should have gone back to their seats. These were not ensured at the time of the incident,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
Of the 11 passengers who were hospitalised, eight were discharged on Monday. “SpiceJet is providing all possible help to the injured,” the airline spokesperson added.
“It was like being in hell. The oxygen masks dropped. The baggages fell. Passengers were bouncing on their seats. Some were injured. I have travelled by flight several times in the past but never witnessed any such thing,” another passenger Rafique Ansari said.
Aviation safety expert Mohan Ranganathan said it appeared as though the aircraft was being flown at a high speed during the turbulence.
“The pilots seemed to be flying the plane at a high speed even while experiencing the turbulence. They should have reduced their speed and should have come down to a turbulent penetration speed. This may probably be one of the reasons why passengers were severely injured,” he said.
(With inputs from Kolkata)
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