Jet Airways mid-air horror: 166 lives hung by a thread

Mumbai: A Mumbai-Jaipur Jet Airways flight 9W-697 with 166 passengers and five crew on board turned back mid-way on Thursday after 30 passengers suffered nasal and ear bleeding as the crew had failed to maintain cabin pressure. The flight’s cockpit crew has been taken off duty and an investigation has been initiated by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau.

The flight, which took off from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport at 5.55 am on Thursday, was turned back after 40 minutes due to a loss of cabin pressure during the flight. The five-member crew forgot to activate the switch that helps stabilise cabin pressure, leading to a disturbance and oxygen masks getting deployed, said an airline source on request of confidentiality.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation has taken cognizance of the incident and requested DGCA to file its report immediately on the issue. The crew is being de-rostered. Of the 166 persons on board, 30 were affected and given treatment, read a statement issued to the press. In the light of such incidents related to safety of passengers, Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu on Thursday ordered a safety audit of all scheduled airlines and airports.

Jet Airways in a statement said that they have taken the pilots off duty pending an investigation. The statement further said, “All guests were de-planed safely and taken to the terminal. First aid was administered to a few guests who complained of ear pain, bleeding nose and headaches.” A few passengers took to social media platform Twitter to share their horror on the flight. Taranbir Singh, a Mumbai resident, tweeted, “Horrific experience. Minimum support from the crew. Some of the oxygen masks were not even working.” Singh added, “There was no announcement from the cockpit which made things even scarier. May Jet Airways learn from its mistakes and make our journey safer.”

Another passenger said, “The crew announced that the plane will return. It then circled overhead for around half-an-hour before landing. There was no announcement from the crew as to where we were landing.” Aviation expert Harsh Vardhan explained the Thursday incident at the hands of Jet Airways crew was a ‘very serious’ human error. He further said, “The higher you fly, the oxygen in the air gets thinner; passengers need oxygen, either through masks or by creating such conditions on the plane.”

Loss of hearing

The five Jet Airways passengers, who suffered nose and ear bleeding on Thursday after the crew failed to turn on a switch that controls cabin air pressure, were suffering from temporary loss of hearing and barotrauma. It is not a serious condition but passengers are nonetheless advised not to fly for two to  three days.

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