Last updated: 10:43 AM ET, Wed July 15 2015

Emergency Landing Investigation Blames Human Fatigue for Engine Fire

Impacting Travel | Donald Wood | July 15, 2015

Emergency Landing Investigation Blames Human Fatigue for Engine Fire

Overworked engineers who finished servicing the wrong aircraft by mistake were determined to be at fault for an engine fire that caused an airliner to make an emergency landing in 2013.

According to Doug Bolton of The Independent, a British Airways Airbus A319 was en route to Oslo, Norway, when smoke began billowing out of the plane’s right engine as it caught fire. The pilot quickly made an emergency landing at London Heathrow Airport and all passengers were removed safely.

Investigators quickly discovered that the problem was a punctured fuel pipe, but it wasn’t until the complete report about the incident was released Tuesday that the general public learned the reason behind the scary incident.

The report from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) claims two overnight technicians were preparing the British Airways plane for flight when they decided to take a break, leaving the fan cowl doors on both engines unlatched.

Returning from the break, the technicians began working on the wrong aircraft. This error was, according to the report, because the engineers were “compromised by fatigue.” The fan cowl doors remained open, breaking off during the flight and damaging the fuel pipe.

The AAIB revealed that the technicians were working a mixture of 12-hour-long day and night shifts and were clearly overworked. While each man had extensive experience, it was no match for their fatigue, and this work situation culminated in the May 2013 accident.  

The AAIB shared some recommendations about how to avoid similar situations in the future. Some of the ideas include reducing levels of fatigue amongst staff and addressing organizational issues.

The organizational improvements recommended stem from the investigation revealing that passengers alerted flight attendants after noticing liquid leaking from an engine before the flight took off, but ground crews or flight control were not alerted to this fact.

The AAIB reports British Airways took the appropriate action following the incident, but the investigative agency still issued warnings and recommendations to help avoid a similar situation in the future.

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