A Qantas flight from Los Angeles to Sydney was reportedly delayed by more than three hours after one of the emergency slides of the doubledeck Airbus A380 was ‘accidentally’ deployed as the plane was taxiing for takeoff.
The incident occurred on Monday night as Qantas flight QF12 was preparing for departure from Los Angeles International Airport for its 14 and half hour flight to Sydney.
As the nearly 15-year-old superjumbo was taxiing to the runway, the pilots reportedly received an automated warning in the flight deck that one of the emergency exits was not closed properly.
The A380 is fitted with a total of 16 emergency exits – there are six exits on the upper deck, which are all equipped with sliderafts and on the main deck, there are eight exits fitted with sliderafts and two overwing exits with specially adapted exit slides.
As QF12 was taxiing to the runway, the pilots received an indication that the emergency exit on the main deck at the back left hand corner (otherwise known as the M5L door) was not properly locked.
One of the aircrew went to physically check the door, and during this examination, eyewitnesses claim the crew member ‘jiggled’ the door handle. That small jiggle movement was enough to activate the emergency slide which had already been armed in preparation for takeoff.
The aircraft then had to be towed back to the gate, where the passengers were deplaned so that the slide could be removed by Qantas’ engineering team.
Aircraft manufacturer Airbus estimates that a three-hour delay incurred as a result of an inadvertent slide deployment (as they are officially known) could cost Qantas at least US $22,000.
Airbus receives around 30 to 40 reports of inadvertent slide deployments on its aircraft every year despite attempts to reduce these types of accidents. Unlike rival manufacturer Boeing, emergency exit doors on Airbus jets are fitted with a special ‘slide armed’ light and buzzer to warn aircrew that the emergency slide is armed and will be deployed if the door handle is raised.
These warning devices are not, however, always successful in preventing an inadvertent slide deployment. Last December, an Emirates A380 flight from Manchester to Dubai was delayed after a slide was accidentally deployed from the forward left-hand upper deck door.
The majority of accidental slide deployments occur at the forward left door or the rear righthand door, as these doors are most frequently used for boarding and loading operations.
It’s perhaps for this reason that aviation professionals were left scratching their heads when a British Airways-operated Boeing 777 suffered an ISD in January at the number three door on the left-hand side of the aircraft. Why? Because these doors are only ever to used in an emergency due to the proximity to the aircraft wing.
It turns out that a new-hire flight attendant became seemingly overwhelmed when they went to arm the slide and proceeded to immediately open the door.
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.