MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: In a mid-air scare, a Jaipur-bound Jet Airways flight on Thursday lost cabin pressure after the crew “forgot” to turn on a control switch leaving 30 passengers bleeding from ears and nose and forcing the aircraft to return to Mumbai, officials said.
The cockpit crew of the Boeing 737, which had 171 people on board including five crewmembers, was de-rostered and the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) was ordered by the government to probe the incident.
An AAIB official said the incident could be a case of negligence on the part of the pilots since controlling cabin pressure is part of mandatory checks before operating a flight.
One of the two pilots of flight 9W 697, which returned to Mumbai after being airborne for around 23 minutes, is a captain with more than five years experience, sources said.
“During climb, the crew forgot to select bleed switch due to which cabin pressurisation could not be maintained. As a result, oxygen masks got deployed,” said an official at aviation regulator, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
The Boeing 737 aircraft returned to Mumbai due to “loss of cabin pressure” and the pilots have been taken off duty pending investigation, a Jet Airways spokesperson said.
“Out of 166 passengers on board, 30 passengers are affected… Some have nose bleeding, few have ear bleeding and some are complaining of headache,” he added.
A source at the Mumbai airport claimed the aircraft made an emergency landing while the airline maintained it landed normally.
The incident comes at a time when the airline is struggling to cut costs and locked in a pay dispute with pilots.
Officials in Mumbai said five passengers, who suffered nose and ear bleeding, were diagnosed with “mild conductive deafness” and later discharged from hospital.
Mumbai-based Dr Balabhai Nanavati Hospital’s chief operating officer Rajendra Patankar said their health condition was stable and they did not require admission. As per their examination by ENT doctors, the five passengers suffered “barotraumas” of ear, which is caused due to a change in air pressure, he said.
The five passengers were identified as Anveshan Ray (39), Mukesh Sharma (31), Vikas Agarwal (31), Damodar Das (37) and Ankur Kala (38), a civic official said.
Kala said that during landing, there was extreme pressure in the flight and he kept covering his ears and holding the mask, and fell unconscious for 10 to 15 seconds.
“When I removed my mask it was full of blood. I told my co-passengers that I am bleeding and waved to the air hostess, but she told me to remain seated and that all is normal,” said Kala, who works for a jewellery firm and was going to Jaipur after coming to Mumbai from Bangkok.
Some passengers said the whole experience was scary with some of them fearing something serious could have happened. “I was sitting on an aisle seat when suddenly air pressure in the cabin dropped and oxygen masks came down. I saw a passenger sitting next to me bleeding from nose. Several others complained of extreme pain in their ears,” Mumbai-based professional Prashant Sharma, who was in the flight, said in Jaipur. He landed there in an alternative flight.
The Civil Aviation Ministry said it has requested the DGCA to immediately file a report on the issue.
Against the backdrop of recent incidents related to safety of air passengers, Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu ordered a safety audit of all scheduled airlines and airports.
Aviation sources said such incidents could be on account of lack of compliance with safety procedures. Videos of the incident taken by passengers quickly went viral on the social media.