Flight attendants onboard a smoke-filled Hawaiian Airlines plane managed to evacuate all 184 passengers in less than a minute after the plane made an emergency landing at Honolulu (HNL) airport yesterday morning. Some reports from the airport fire department suggest the plane was completely evacuated in as little as 45 seconds – way under the 90-second evacuation requirement that is rarely achieved in similar incidents.
Hawaiian Airlines flight HA47 from Oakland in California to Honolulu declared an emergency approximately four and a half hours into the five-hour flight after thick white smoked filled both the cabin and activated an alarm in the cargo hold. The brand new Airbus A321neo single-aisle aircraft landed 20 minutes later and passengers evacuated onto the runway via the emergency slides.
According to the airline, the cause was determined to be a seal in the left engine that failed, causing oil to leak onto the engine and the air conditioning pressurization system. The admission that the smoke could have been contaminated with highly toxic engine oil will raise fears that the seven crew and 184 passengers were exposed to poisonous air that could lead to long-term serious health problems.
Hawaiian Airlines said that seven passengers were transported to local hospitals with smoke-related symptoms but all other passengers and crew were evacuated without injury. Anyone concerned about exposure to contaminated cabin crew should seek medical advice and request blood tests within 24-hours of an incident occurring.
In a statement, the airline said it would like to “sincerely apologize to our passengers for this incident, and thank them, as well as first responders and airport officials, for their cooperation and assistance in a swift and safe evacuation.”
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We are conducting a thorough inspection of the aircraft before returning it to service,” the statement continued.
The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) which represents crew at Hawaiian Airlines praised the flight attendants for their swift actions in managing to evacuate the passengers so quickly. The union reported that passengers did not take any of their personal belonging with them during the evacuation – a welcome change from similar incidents.
Yesterday’s evacuation is reminiscent of a British Airways emergency earlier this month at Valencia airport in Spain. In that incident, thick smoked the cabin of the Airbus A321 leading to an evacuation onto the runway. The cause of that event is yet to determined.
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.