An engine defect caused a catastrophic fire and sparked a panicked, uncoordinated evacuation on the tarmac at ORD last October.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released its findings into the evacuation of American Airlines Flight 383, which caught fire as it was preparing to takeoff at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) on October 28 of last year.
The report indicates that a defect resulted in the failure of the right engine of the Boeing 767-300 and a fire which spread to the right wing of the aircraft, Bloomberg reports.
Eyewitness accounts from the flight’s cabin crew indicate that the scene onboard the plane was chaotic. Staff initially attempted to prevent passengers from disembarking because the thrust of the left engine, which was still operational, was blowing violently against two of the three deployed emergency slides.
The NTSB indicates that, in an emergency situation, American asks crew to check if engines are still operational prior to an evacuation. In the report, a member of staff said that he and a colleague were awaiting communication from the flight’s pilot as to when they should evacuate.
This further communication never came and with smoke filling the cabin, crew ordered passengers to evacuate. The report indicates that 20 of the 170 passengers on the flight were injured as they exited the plane, with some blown by the force of the working engine. One unnamed passenger told the NTSB that he “stood up to get away from the airplane and was blown over by the thrust coming out of the back of the engine.”
As passengers were evacuating, a fuel leakage resulted in a large explosion. According to cockpit voice transcripts, the copilot did not report cutting fuel to the engines until a minute after the plane came to a halt.
The pilots told authorities that it took time to work through the points required by the evacuation checklist, which the captain described as “cumbersome.”
Boeing has not commented. Speaking of the incident, AA spokesperson Ross Feinstein said, “We are proud of our pilots, flight attendants and other team members who responded quickly on Oct. 28, 2016, to take care of our customers and colleagues under very challenging circumstances.”