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VS27 Evacuation - 'Fear Without Flying' blog

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VS27 Evacuation - 'Fear Without Flying' blog

Old 20th Apr 2012, 13:26
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VS27 Evacuation - 'Flying without Fear' blog

A great read, clarifying in detail for Joe Public the training Pilots and Cabin Crew in regards to evacuations - and specifically, correcting some things incorrectly reported in the media.

Entire article pasted below due to the link to the blogging website being ***'d out by when I try to include it. It's here http://virginfwf.********.co.uk/2012...-blog.html?m=1 - the stars hiding the word blog spot, with no space between the 2 words.

WEDNESDAY, 18 APRIL 2012
VS27 Special Blog

Yesterday, we went to Gatwick and spent the whole day offering help, chatting and getting the stories first hand from those that were flying out on VS127 - which was a special flight for the passengers evacuated the day before on VS27. It was fascinating talking to people first hand that had been on the evacuated flight, as their stories were very different to what some of the media had portrayed. The majority of people were saying that Virgin could not have done enough to help them.
This is what Virgin had released:

"Virgin Atlantic confirms that flight VS27 flying from Gatwick to Orlando on Monday 16th April returned to Gatwick following a technical incident and was evacuated in line with emergency procedures. Our number one priority in this incident is the welfare of our passengers. We have been working around the clock to assist in every way that we can including accompanying customers to hospital, arranging care and overnight accommodation. We understand that 14 passengers attended hospital last night for a variety of injuries and as of this morning, three have stayed overnight for treatment on limb injuries. We will do everything we can to meet their needs and support them at this time.
We have added an additional flight to Orlando today to ensure that as many of those that want to continue their travel plans can do so. For those that would prefer not to travel today, we have helped with their transport home and the returning of their luggage. We are working closely with the authorities to establish the cause of the incident and will be fully assisting the relevant parties with the investigation. We would like to apologise to all of those customers that were affected by what is a very rare incident. The flight was operated by an Airbus A330-300 carrying 304 passengers."
Steve Ridgway, CEO, Virgin Atlantic video clip

It was amazing to see the mood of those about to fly. The vast majority were in very good form. Lots of humour and positivity and NOTHING like some press have reported either...

What is our view @ Flying Without Fear?

1) The pilots did exactly what they are trained to do. They had an alert in the FlightDeck about possible smoke. The crew checked the cabin and there were no fumes or smoke. So, as always safety first, they followed procedure. They briefed the cabin crew, alerted the airport and made an emergency landing. The cabin crew were told to evacuate using the slides. The cabin crew did what they are told to do and got the passengers off the aircraft using the available slides. There were some 'slide related' injuries. These are the facts as known. Until the investigation is complete, nothing else is known. Let us examine this.
The pilots did what they are trained to do. They would not have known (nor the cabin crew) whether they had 4 days to evacuate the aircraft or 4 minutes! The training is to get on the ground as soon as possible, evacuate and get away from the aircraft as soon as possible just in case. As it turned out the aircraft appeared to be fine. Question. What would you have preferred if you were onboard? A decisive crew that erred on the side of caution and got you all off straight away or; an indecisive crew that weren't sure what to do so landed and then slowly brought the stairs up to the aircraft to gently get off? If the Captain had not ordered the doors to be opened and slides activated, it would most likely to have had a tiny amount of coverage. The pilot team think safety first always, so if there was even a slight chance of a risk to safety, they would decide to get straight off the aircraft via the slides. We find that reassuring. This would not have been a decision taken lightly. They would have to leap down the slides as well. Plus, safety aside, can you imagine the millions of pounds that probably cost as a result of it. But, as we said, safety first always.

2) The crew are trained to get passengers off an aircraft every year. They are taught to be able to evacuate the whole aircraft of passengers in 90 seconds with only half the doors working. They are taught to shout positive commands non stop from the moment the Captain says 'evacuate.' 'Unfasten your seatbelts and get out.' 'Come this way.' 'Leave everything behind.' These are the sort of commands that crew are trained in. 99.9% of crew will never use this training ever. But, it still gets drilled into all members of crew and rightly so. The crew are trained to shout, shout and shout more. Also, they are trained in passenger psychology during an emergency. This has come from research over the aviation history around what happens in an emergency. Some passengers will experience 'negative panic' which means they will freeze. Others will experience 'positive panic' and will move and be motivated to get off/help others etc. The crew are taught that if people aren't moving, you keep shouting. If they freeze at the top of the slide, you nudge them down it. This is all part of the training. Question. Would you prefer the cabin crew to be strong, assertive and know what they are doing or to dither? Cabin crew are primarily there for safety. The service stuff is what differentiates the different airlines. The safety training is pretty much the same for every airline. Imagine if ten minutes earlier, the cabin crew had been serving you. Smiling and offering help. Then suddenly, the diminutive crew member in front of you is shouting and pushing you along - that would be a shock wouldn't it? BUT, that is what they are trained to do.

3) We spoke to many of the passengers yesterday. Many were upset at the negative way some of the media had reported the incident. They had nothing but praise for the staff onboard and at the airport. At the time of interview, some of the people were shocked at the unexpected evacuation. This has nothing to do with having a fear of flying. We think that this is NORMAL reaction that any human might have if something unexpected happened. It is not inevitable that these 304 passengers will become scared of flying. It is what happens next for them that matters. We reminded a lot of people yesterday that it was okay to be shaken up by what had happened. It was okay to feel a bit apprehensive. And, we also reminded them that if they chose not to fly again soon, then it would become harder to face it another time.

4) Some people were shocked that the crew had shouted at them and nudged them down the slides until we explained point 2 above. As soon as we heard the news on the radio and that there had been injuries we knew that they would be 'slide-related.' Question. When are we trained as passengers for an emergency? Never. A small safety demonstration at the beginning of the flight and the rest of the training sits with the crew. They are trained and tested on it all the time. They even practise jumping down slides. Even when practising, it is possible to injure oneself - and these are youngish, fit crew that know they are about to jump down a slide. So, it is unfortunate but inevitable that some people may get injured slightly. Surely, it is better to be away from any potential danger in any situation?

5) We don't know yet what happened. As with anything aviation related, there will be a full investigation and the findings will be reported. Anything that needs to change in the aircraft, will be changed on all aircraft. Anything that needs to change in terms of pilot or crew procedures, will be changed - and not just Virgin. All airlines will learn. Question. When an accident occurs on a motorway, what happens? It is investigated fully by the emergency services. The findings are then sent where? Car companies test their cars for safety and make improvements all the time. If road signs or road conditions are found wanting, the local councils will probably make improvements. What about the lessons that are learned from the bad driving? Do you all get a brief about what happened so you can change your driving habits? Will you be tested every year on everything single little and big thing that could go wrong whilst you are driving? No, of course not. That is the difference with aviation - nothing is left to chance. They will be tested every year and if any new learning comes out of this incident, they will be re-trained and tested on that too.

6) Some of the passengers reported the following experiences which were 'true' for them based on what they experienced. This is not to knock what was said or experienced. We were not there so we cannot say what it 'felt' like during the incident. Examples of two comments: 1 'I knew as soon as we took off that there was something wrong as the flight was wobbly and there was turbulence.' 2 'I knew as soon as we landed and I saw all the police, it was probably a bomb.' These are all perceptions. 1 If you are a passenger in the back of an aircraft, it is hard to know what the aircraft is actually doing because you can't see out the front. All aircraft wobble a bit when they go through the clouds. All aircraft can feel like that they sink a little about 1-2 minutes after take off. This is due to the restriction at all airports at 1,500 feet. Engines are made quieter and flaps on the wings are altered. This is a combination of whirring noises, engines going quieter, and the pitch of aircraft changing a couple of degrees. Plus, they could be turning due to air traffic control directions. If you are not a pilot or crew, you will not know what is going on. Your stomach may well feel movement and the balance organs in your ears are desperately scanning for extra information (as sight forward is limited) So, what you experience isn't necessarily what is happening. 2 If there is an emergency or even an incident, the airport services will scramble everyone there. There will be Police, fire crews, medics, ground staff etc etc. This is because, they are taught to respond fully to an incident. They won't know at that point how many are needed or what specialisms - so they all come. So, seeing lots of Police does not mean that anything sinister has happened. It is just about safety first as with anything to do with aviation. It may interest to you, that the emergency services often follow aircraft in as that is how they get their practice.

Conclusion.

This blog was intended to help those that have been writing to us asking, 'What's going on?!' It was meant with good intentions and not to offend or disturb anyone. The facts are that an aircraft bound for Orlando returned to Gatwick a short while after take off and upon landing the slides were activated. The reason why will be investigated and the aviation industry will learn from it. We know about all safety measures and procedures in place. There is no doubt, the investigation will bring out advice to Virgin and other airlines. BUT, they followed procedure.

Please remember that everyone onboard this aircraft is safe. It was so heartwarming for us to accompany the ground staff, safety staff and cabin crew yesterday and see all those passengers resuming their holiday to Orlando.
Take care,
Paul & Richard
Virgin Flying Without Fear


P.S. We spoke to some of the people that we knew about and had been interviewed by the media. Their feelings about the incident were very different to their immediate shocked responses straight after being evacuated.

Last edited by sinala1; 20th Apr 2012 at 23:22.
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Old 20th Apr 2012, 17:40
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The key thing we need to learn in the AAIB report is what exactly the Fire & Rescue Service informed the crew when they inspected the aircraft with the thermal imaging camera.

The way I was taught (from Airbus) cargo smoke warning:-

ECAM leading to LAND ASAP.

Bring the aircraft to a stop on the runway, cabin crew members to be on station.

Fire service to inspect the aircraft with thermal imaging camera, not to open the holds.

In the event of nothing showing via the camera - consider the passengers being removed from the aircraft via steps.

If the aircraft is showing signs of heat from the hold then evacuate the aircraft - once passengers are off fire service open the hold.
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Old 20th Apr 2012, 18:00
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SMOKE FWD (AFT) CARGO SMOKE


LAND ASAP

CAB FANS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . OFF1

● IF FWD (AFT) CRG CLOSED (displayed on ground only) Order the ground crew not to open the door of the affected cargo compartment unless the passengers have disembarked and fire services are present. Also ensure that the FWD (AFT) cargo door is closed before discharging the extinguishing agent. AGENT. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .DISCH
Note : Expect the SMOKE warning to remain after agent discharge, even if the smoke source is extinguished. Gases from the smoke source are not evacuated, and smoke detectors are also sensitive to the extinguishing agent.
● ON GROUND BEFORE OPEN CRG DOORS :1

PAX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .[B]DISEMBARK

STATUS

● BEFORE OPEN CRG DOORS : (displayed on ground only)1

PAX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .DISEMBARK

Note the use of the wording in the ECAM and paper documents disembark, not evacuate.. I hope the crew and Virgin are able to communicate their reasons for the need to the imidiate evacuation.

Last edited by PT6A; 21st Apr 2012 at 11:04.
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Old 21st Apr 2012, 10:39
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I am not Flight Deck nor Cabin Crew, I am ground staff for many years and a frequent passenger. I would rather have the VS crew in command of my flight than PT6A.

I am quite certain that all aspects of the evacuation will be examined and in due course a report will be issued with recommendations for future situations.

What is clear is that the VS crew felt an evacuation and not a disembarkation was required. They were there, they know what all the indications were and they took a decision based on those real time indications. I'm sure that if the indications were different they would have followed the manual, but equally I am prepared to accept that the manual procedures were not relevant and evacuation was the correct solution.
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Old 21st Apr 2012, 11:00
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I would respectfully suggest in most instances it is not appropriate to disregard the published procedures. These have been created by the manufacturer and then approved by the Authorites.

Airbus are quite clear in their documentation that an evacuation should not be taken lightly as it will lead to injury of passengers, furher that all resources should be used to evaluate if an evacuation is necessary.

As the facts stand today (to the best of my understanding) there was no fire onboard the aircraft.

This would mean the crew had a cargo smoke warning only. Once on the ground the safest course of action is for the responding fire and rescues services to examin the hold from the outside using thermal imaging equipment (keeping the hold door closed) if the hold is showing no signs of heat then the passengers should be taken off the aircraft via steps.

If the hold does show signs of heat then they should be evacuated.

I can't help but wonder if this was a cabin initiated evacuation.

Anyway, there are surely some lessons to be learned.

*Note the detectors as installed in the hold are not "fire detectors" or "heat detectors" but an optical sensor that is extremely sensitive and can and does activate for a variety of reasons.

With the above in mind it is imperative to treat every activation as real hence the LAND ASAP on the ECAM however once on the ground it is equally important to use outside resources (fire service etc) to determine the next move.
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Old 21st Apr 2012, 11:10
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Definitely a difficult decision, but either way I think it's a bit unfair to suggest the crew were going against published procedures. The Boeing QRH 'Checklist Instructions' says:

It must be stressed that for smoke that continues or a fire that cannot be positively confirmed to be completely extinguished, the earliest possible descent, landing, and evacuation must be done.
Anything similar for Airbus?
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Old 21st Apr 2012, 11:21
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As posted above Airbus reccoment that unless you have something in addition to the smoke warning. (fire service report via RTF, signs of smoke etc) then you should disembark the passengers not evacuate.

I just started a general post about this over in Tech Log, be interesting to see the various opinions.

Ps. I just read your post again.... That is talking about an actual fire and or smoke (100% agree with that statement) however as far as we know the VS flight had nothing other than an ECAM smoke warning.

Warning only would ring true considering how quickly the aircraft was returned to service.
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Old 21st Apr 2012, 12:54
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What is clear is that the VS crew felt an evacuation and not a disembarkation was required
As yet, we do not have sufficient information to know whether this was a Flight Crew initiated evacuation or a Flight Attendant initiated evacuation (or for that matter, a passenger). Right now, nothing is clear.

It is reasonable to ask questions about the decision to evacuate once the full circumstances have been established, in the expectation of applying the lessons learned, should there be any.
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Old 21st Apr 2012, 14:59
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I was sat at the hold in BRU one night as an A320 diverted in with a cargo hold smoke warning.

Listening and watching; the crew in that incident were absolutely explicit that they wanted an inspection and feedback from the fire crew before deciding the next move. The AFRS having looked at the aircraft recommended evacuation so that's what happened.

We heard later that when the hold was opened there was no fire or smoke and it was a dodgy sensor.

These decisions are not simple or easy for anyone either on the flight deck or in the AFRS who are trying to peer through an aluminum skin riddled with pipes wiring and ducts.

I've always thought the German system of the AFRS having a set of widebody fire truck type steps was sensible. It would allow for a rapid but controlled de-planing.
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Old 21st Apr 2012, 16:01
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Daysleeper,

Sounds like that crew did exactly what Airbus reccomends.
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Old 23rd Apr 2012, 02:57
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The information coming to light is that it was dry ice in the hold that caused a false activation of the cargo smoke warning.
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Old 26th Apr 2012, 12:40
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It was Peppers !

PT6A, Dry Ice would not set a firm sensor off. i am realiably told that it was a pallet of cargo which had green / red peppers loaded. Netted and probably plastic sheeting ( plastic is my guess ). It was the heat & humidity that tripped the fire sensor. As there is no way of telling if a fire or not - the crew did the right thing.
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Old 26th Apr 2012, 14:08
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Dry ice has set sensors off in the past! So yes it can happen.

The heat can be confirmed as discussed above.

Ps. The Airbus does not have any "fire" sensors in the hold.
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