Three passengers on a Utair Airways flight from Vnukovo International Airport in Moscow have been detained by police after opening the overwing emergency exit and jumping out as the plane was pushing back from the gate. The two men and one woman who are all believed to be Russian nationals thought the plane was on fire when they saw flames coming out the back of the engine but ignored crew instructions to remain seated.
Video footage shot by a passenger inside the cabin of Thursday’s Utair flight shows bright orange flames emerging from the back of the starboard engine of the Boeing 737 aircraft. The plane had just started up its engines and was pushing back from the gate when the incident unfolded.
Unconcerned crew, however, ignored panicked cries of “fire” from some of the passengers who could see what was happening. Apparently, with no instructions coming from the flight attendants, the three passengers took it upon themselves to activate an emergency exit and jump on the wing of the aircraft.
At this point, cabin crew became slightly more interested in the unfolding drama and convinced the three passengers to get back inside the plane, telling them that the flames were perfectly normal. In a statement, a spokesperson for the regional Russian airline explained:
“This was a normal situation, the plane was in order, the passengers were not in danger.” Apparently, the flames were caused by an interrupted airflow during engine start-up and nobody was ever in any danger.
Obviously, with an emergency exit activated, the plane was put out of action but passengers were reacommodated on another plane to complete their journey to Makhachkala in southwestern Russia. The three quick thinking but ill-judged passengers didn’t make the rescheduled flight as they were detained by police but it’s not known whether they’ll be charged for what appears to be a genuine mistake.
Utair is fairly large Russian airline with nearly 70 aircraft in its fleet – mainly Boeing 737’s and ATR 72-500 twin-engine turboprops. The carrier currently serves around 96 destinations with over 250 daily departures.
Last September, one of Utair’s 737’s was involved in a serious accident as it attempted to land at Sochi airport. The plane skidded off the runway and crashed through the airport fence before falling into a dry river bed. The port side engine caught fire when it came to rest and around 18 passengers were said to be injured. An airport worker even died after suffering a heart attack during the rescue operation.
At least the three Russian passengers in this latest incident had a reasonable excuse to open an emergency exit. Unlike a Chinese man who made headlines around the world last May when he opened an emergency exit because the cabin was “too stuffy and hot”.
The man, known only as Mr Chen was fined 70,000 Yuan after taking it upon himself to get more air into the plane. He had allegedly become frustrated because it was taking a while for other passengers to deplane at Nanjiao Airport, in Mianyang City after just arriving from Hainan Island.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.