- Richard Kim
- BBC Korea
In relation to the recent dangerous incident where a passenger opened the emergency exit of an active airline, attention is being focused on how to prevent this from happening again in the future.
Earlier on the 26th, an accident occurred when the emergency door of Asiana Airlines flight OZ8124, which was flying 213m above Daegu Airport, suddenly opened. This is because Mr. A (33), who was sitting in the emergency exit seat of the plane, turned the emergency exit lever. The plane landed with the door open.
At the time, the plane had 194 passengers, including Mr A, two pilots, and four crew members on board. Some passengers were taken to hospital by ambulance shortly after landing with symptoms of breathing difficulties. It was a dizzying accident that could have led to a major accident.
Asiana Airlines decided not to sell seats next to the emergency exit of the Airbus A321-200, the model in which the accident occurred, for the time being. Regarding this measure, Asiana Airlines said, “We will stop selling the emergency exit seats of the plane where the accident occurred,” and “we will continue to sell the remaining exit seats.”
This measure is based on the judgment that it is difficult for the crew to control in an emergency because the hand of the passenger sitting in the seat touches the emergency exit lever without closing the seat belt. Some other airlines have also begun to review whether changes to their emergency exit seat sales policy are needed following the crash.
What is an emergency exit seat?
Emergency exit seats are wider than other seats because there is no front seat, and they are called ‘leg room seats’ because you can stretch your legs. In addition, in an emergency, it is necessary to induce a rapid evacuation by helping the crew to open the emergency exit door and help other passengers to escape. For this reason, airlines ensure that relatively able-bodied passengers are seated first in emergency exit seats.
For this reason, certain restrictions apply to the allocation of emergency exit seats. According to current Asiana regulations, emergency exit seats cannot be assigned to passengers who cannot communicate in Korean or English, or passengers who do not have sufficient mobility, physical strength, or flexibility of arms, hands or legs to perform the following steps.
Mr. A, who caused the accident, a solid body of over 180 cm, and there was no problem using the emergency exit seat. The problem is that the rules for sitting in emergency exit seats focus on a strong body, but there are no clear rules for mental health.
The actual regulations are different for each airline, but if you are not a child or a disabled person, you can get a seat at the emergency exit without additional validation after paying an additional fee.
Emergency exit regulations, is it right as it is?
The discontinued seats are ‘seat 26A’ of the A321-200 aircraft (11 units) operated with 174 seats and ‘seat 31A’ of the A321-200 aircraft (3 units) operated with 195 seats.
Due to the structure of the aircraft, seat 31A is attached to the emergency door to the extent that the emergency exit door can be reached even when seated. In particular, in general, there are many structures where the flight attendant opens the simple seat and sits face to face with the passengers to help passengers escape in case of an emergency in the emergency exit seat. However, it was confirmed that there were no crew seats in the crash model compartment.
In a phone call with BBC Korea, Assistant Manager Baek Hyun-woo of Asiana Airlines’ PR team explained, “This model is not structured where the flight attendant sits directly in front of the passenger who caused the accident, but rather sitting at the far end of the diagonal.”
Basic steps need to be taken
Although Asiana Airlines completely stopped selling the emergency exit seats of the accident model, criticism is emerging that simply limiting the sale of the seats may not be the best solution.
Passengers sitting next to the emergency exit must help passengers escape in case of an emergency, so more basic measures are needed for emergency exit seat regulations.
An aviation industry official said, “Since the structure allows passengers sitting next to the emergency exit to open the door easily at any time when the air pressure is low, the possibility cannot be ruled out that the same situation will repeat itself.” After a close look, the system for allocating seats should be strengthened.”
However, it is not easy to note that it will not be as easy as it sounds to check the mental health of passengers in advance.
Regarding the need to check the health of passengers at the emergency exit in advance, Asiana Airlines said, “It is a very good opinion and I wholeheartedly agree with it.” he said.
Regarding this, Sung-hwan Cho, a professor in the Aviation Security Department at Seoul Digital Arts University, said, “Recently, the protection of personal information is a sensitive issue, so it would be quite difficult to check in advance what kind of mental. an illness that a passenger sitting at the emergency exit suffers from,” he expected.
However, Professor Cho insisted that in-flight security needs to be strengthened more than the current one.
He said, “In the case of Mr. A, who forcefully opened the emergency door this time, may have had abnormal symptoms such as emotional instability before he began to act, for example, even before boarding the plane.” “We need to strengthen security activities, such as closely monitoring passengers.”
In the case of foreign cases
Abroad, aircraft emergency door opening accidents often occur, but this usually occurs while stationary or on the ground.
From time to time, due to some handling mistakes, the door was opened from the ground or the emergency slide was not folded.
In 2017, on a flight from Incheon International Airport to Danang, Vietnam, a passenger in his 60s pulled a lever to open the emergency exit and the escape slide was deployed. In 2019, at Manchester Airport in the UK, a plane from Pakistan mistook an emergency exit for a toilet and opened it. It is said that the woman was sentenced to two years in prison at the time.
However, there was no precedent in Korea for emergency exits to open upon landing, as in the case of Daegu Airport.
Professor Cho Seong-hwan said, “Unexpected things can happen on the plane, like this incident that happened in Korea.” Emphasized.