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Flyers bleed mid-air after cabin pressure slumps in Jet flight Mumbai

At least 30 passengers of a Jet Airways flight took ill, several of whom suffered from nosebleed and pain in the ears, on Thursday morning, after a substantial drop in the cabin pressure that forced Jaipur-bound aircraft to return to the Mumbai airport after being in the air for over 15 minutes. The bizarre incident took place after the pilots of Mumbai-Jaipur flight 9W-697 — carrying 166 persons and a five-member crew took off from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) at 6 am — in a major breach of the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) forgot to press the “bleed switch” that controls the air pressure in the cabin during the take-off process, resulting in the drop of cabin pressure. The smartphone video footage of the goings-on shot by a few passengers inside the affected flight showed oxygen masks hanging from overhead compartments and panicked passengers breathing through them. After the aircraft made an emergency landing at the CSMIA, the affected passengers were rushed to the terminal building where they were administered first aid. In a statement issued shortly after the return of the Jet Airways flight to the Mumbai airport, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) said, “MoCA has taken cognisance of the incident in flight 9W-697 earlier on Thursday and has requested the DGCA to file its report immediately on the issue. The crew is being de-rostered. Of the 166 people on board, 30 were affected and have been given treatment”. Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu ordered safety audit of all scheduled airlines and airports. “The officials concerned should prepare a comprehensive safety audit plan which involves assessment of safety parameters of all scheduled airlines, aerodromes, flying training schools and MROs immediately,” Prabhu said, seeking a safety audit report within 30 days. He also directed the officials concerned to corrective action immediately if deficiencies were noticed in the safety audit. Independent of a preliminary enquiry into the incident by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) which has been asked to file a report on the incident immediately, the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) is looking into the incident. Confirming the incident, a DGCA official said, “During climb, the crew forgot to select bleed switch because of which cabin pressure dropped. As a result, the passengers made use of oxygen masks.” Darshak Hathi and Satish Nair were among the first passengers on board the affected flight to tweet about the incident. “Panic situation due to technical fault in @jetairways 9W 0697 going from Mumbai to Jaipur. Flt return back to Mumbai after 45 mts. All passengers are safe including me. – at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (BOM),” Hathi tweeted. He also posted video footage of the incident shot from his smartphone on his tweeter handle. “I was on board…..horrifying and worst incident in my life…Passengers on Jet flight bleed after crew forgets to maintain cabin pressure,” Nair tweeted. “The aircraft made an emergency landing in Mumbai. Airplane lost pressure immediately after taking off. Scores of passengers including me bled from nose….no staff to help…no announcement on board to wear the oxygen mask. Passengers safety was completely ignored,” another passenger,” Nair elaborated on the incident later. Regretting the inconvenience caused to passengers on board the affected flight, a Jet Airways spokesperson said of the 166 passengers on board the original flight, 144 left for Jaipur in an alternative flight,  “while 17 of them wished to travel at another point in time” “Five guests who were referred to a hospital for additional medical check-up accompanied by the Jet Airways’ Care team have since been released, post medical examination. The airline will continue to offer necessary medical care and attention to the concerned guests as required. Jet Airways is also extending full cooperation to the DGCA for the ongoing investigation of the event,” the airline spokesperson said. Dwelling upon the condition of the passengers admitted to his hospital, Dr Rajendra Patankar, Chief Operating Officer of the Nanavati Hospital said, “The five patients, all males, have mild conductive deafness, a temporary condition that is likely to take a week or 10 days to heal. They are advised not to fly till that time. They are under observation and are stable.” Dr Patankar said the five passengers said they had suffered “barotrauma” of ear, which was caused due to a change in air pressure. The five hospitalised passengers were identified as Anveshan Ray (39), Mukesh Sharma (31), Vikas Agarwal (31), Damodar Das (37) and Ankur Kala (38). Thursday’s was the first of its kind witnessed in the country.  In one of the similar but much severe incident witnessed elsewhere in the world, Helios Airways Flight 522, a scheduled passenger flight from Larnaca, Cyprus, to Athens, Greece, had crashed on  August 14, 2005, killing all 121 passengers and crew on board, following the  loss of cabin pressurisation that incapacitated the crew, leaving the aircraft flying on autopilot until it ran out of fuel and crashed. In another similar mishap, Aloha Airlines Flight 243, a scheduled Aloha Airlines flight between Hilo and Honolulu in Hawaii, had suffered extensive damage after an explosive decompression in flight on April 28, 1988, but managed to land safely at Kahului Airport on Maui. A flight attendant Clarabelle Lansing was killed in the incident after having been ejected from the aircraft. Friday, 21 September 2018 | TN RAGHUNATHA | Mumbai–

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