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Jetstar crew unaware ground worker was still attached

May 29, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Pilots of a Jetstar plane powered up the engines to taxi to the runway at Newcastle Airport – momentarily forgetting that a worker was still attached to their aircraft by a cable.

The worker, a dispatcher, had been connected by a cable to the A320’s nose to allow communication with the pilots via a headset.

A report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau outlined the incident, which happened on 25 January 2017. The Jetstar plane, which was due to fly to Brisbane, was parked at bay 4 at the Newcastle Airport terminal in the early evening for passenger disembarkation and boarding.

The crew received clearance to push back, which placed the plane close to another aircraft parked on bay 5.

The aircraft dispatcher walked beside the Jetstar plane and was connected to its nose by a headset for communication with the flight crew.

A couple of minutes later, the crew of the aircraft on bay 5 requested a clearance to taxi for departure. At this stage, the crew aboard the Jetstar plane interrupted their pre-flight operational discussion to monitor the other aircraft, which they believed posed a collision risk.

A little later, crew sighted a dispatcher near bay 4. They assumed this was their dispatcher, who had disconnected from their aircraft while they were monitoring the bay 5 aircraft movements and radio communications.

They were wrong. Their dispatcher was still attached to their aircraft. Unaware of that, flight crew then requested and received a clearance to taxi for the runway. They switched their taxi lights on, released the brakes and increased power.

All of this was a big shock for the dispatcher, who was still connected to the plane’s nose by the headset cable and was waiting for clearance from the flight crew to disconnect.

The dispatcher immediately disconnected the headset from the aircraft and “ran clear to the left of the aircraft towards the terminal,” the ATSB report said. There were no injuries and no damage.

“Following this serious incident the captain reported that their most important lesson was distraction management,” the ATSB said.

“They considered either slowing down the ‘after start flows’ or re-starting the ‘flows’ as the most practical risk mitigation strategies.”

Written by Peter Needham

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