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- Passengers on an Aer Lingus plane opened emergency exits, climbed out on to the wing of their plane, and escaped by emergency slides because they thought that their pilot was telling them to evacuate.
- The incident, which occurred in November 2017, came after the plane’s pilot told passengers to "Disembark the aircraft immediately."
- The command was misinterpreted by numerous passengers, with 32 passengers climbing out onto the wing.
- The aircraft was flying from the Irish city of Cork to London, England, but turned around after crew smelt burning in the cabin.
- One passenger said that the plane was "chaotic" and that the event was frightening.
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Panicked passengers on an Aer Lingus flight opened emergency exits, activated the escape slides and climbed onto their plane’s wings after their they wrongly thought their pilot told them to evacuate after their plane was diverted.
The incident, which occurred in November 2017, came after the plane’s pilot told passengers to "Disembark the aircraft immediately," and leave their baggage behind when their flight made an unscheduled return to Ireland’s Cork airport.
It had been flying from Cork to London Heathrow when crew decided to turn around when they smelled burning in the cabin, according to a report about the incident released by Ireland’s Air Accident Investigation Unit on Tuesday.
The report said that the pilot intended passengers to leave through the plane’s doors as normal, but dozens of passengers panicked. Some opened plane’s over-wing emergency exits, climbing out onto the wings and leaving the plane using the escape slides.
The report said that passengers "interpreted the Commander’s instruction as a full evacuation."
Air Accident Investigation Unit Ireland
Around 32 passengers climbed onto the plane’s wings, with half of these using emergency slides and the other half re-entering the plane to leave via the normal steps.
When cabin crew noticed that passengers were using the emergency exits, they announced: "Ladies and gentleman, please remain calm and please exit the aircraft through the back doors and the forward doors."
One passenger told investigators that the pilot was "excellent" but said it was "chaotic" when everyone tried to leave the plane. They said that passengers decided to open the exits after they were unable to move behind a passenger with limited mobility, who was being helped by cabin crew.
They said that the event was frightening, and that adults and children on board were upset.
The report claimed that passengers may have been "alarmed" when they saw a fire crew arrive, and that "passengers wouldn’t necessarily know the difference between a ‘disembark’ and an ‘evacuate’ instruction."
It also said that pilots’ instructions may have seemed louder than normal to passengers because the pilots were wearing oxygen masks.
An investigation found that an on-board fan was the source of the fumes, and the manufacturer is producing a new design for the fan, the report said.
No safety recommendations were made, but Aer Lingus said that it intended to make the understanding of the difference between a "rapid disembarkation" and a "full evacuation" clearer.
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