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Emirates A380 door explosion story is rubbish

What is remarkable about a story which News.com has been running since yesterday about a door explosion in an Emirates A380 flight between Bangkok and Hong Kong is not that it is wrong.

Almost everything sourced to the Daily Mail in the UK is wrong, except possibly for the date which appears on the pages of the print editions.

No. The astonishing bit is that the story was so obviously wrong that even the tea lady would have raised doubts about its veracity, had the bean counters combined her role with that of sub-editing, which is probably an up coming part of its business survival plan.

The story currently appears in its ‘most wrong’ form on the Courier-Mail site for Australian readers, however just in case frantic corrections occur later today, or tomorrow, or whenever the Courier-Mail can afford to behave like a newspaper, it is also reproduced in full below.

A TOURIST has told of his flight of terror when he claims an emergency exit on a superjumbo blew open at 27,000ft.

Briton David Reid and his son Lewis feared a bomb had gone off after hearing a “massive explosion” two hours into their flight on the brand new $376 million Emirates Airbus A380.

Freezing air blasted in and the cabin pressure plunged after the door in business class came nearly four centimetres ajar, leaving a gaping hole, Mr Reid told the Daily Mail.

As passengers wept in terror, he said, a petrified stewardess ran down the aisle and screamed “the door’s going to go” before cowering behind her seat.

Astonishingly, according to Mr Reid, instead of making an emergency landing, the crew decided to stuff blankets and pillows stuck together with gaffer tape into the hole and continue the flight despite a horrendous droning noise and sub-zero temperatures, as photographed by Mr Reid and his son.

The drama happened on Monday as the two Britons flew from Bangkok to Hong Kong as part of what was planned as a “trip of a lifetime” after Mr Reid had spent months battling leukaemia.

“We were about two hours in when suddenly there was a huge blast,” he said.

“It was a real shock, so loud that I thought a bomb might have gone off. Air was gushing into the cabin like a gale. The stewardess jumped up and stared at the door. Her face was drained white. She ran up the aisle, grabbed the intercom and started screaming, ‘The door’s going to go, the door’s going to go!’ Then she hid under her chair.

Emirates A380

Emirates A380 emergency exit door partially opened after explosion. Source: Emirates

“Other passengers were crying and saying ‘We’re going to go down, we’re going to go down.’ It was complete panic. The emergency door was ajar and leaving a gaping hole. You could see straight out into the atmosphere, 27,000ft up.”

Mr Reid, who has a private pilot’s licence, said that after several moments of confusion, the cabin crew started grabbing blankets and pillows which they stuck together with duct tape to fill the gap.

“This is a state-of-the-art plane but they were using the most crude method you could imagine to try and plug the hole,” he said.

“The conditions were terrible for the rest of the flight. The door continued to make a horrendously loud droning sound which made it impossible to speak to each other. Worst of all, it was absolutely freezing.

“It was an extremely very nerve-wracking experience for everybody.”

He said cabin crew closed the curtain between business class to stop those in the economy cabin below discovering what was happening.

Mr Reid claims he suffered a chest infection following the ordeal and the pair had to cut short their $6,800 trip. His 18-year-old son reported the incident to the Department of Transport’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch who have passed it on to air investigators at the United Arab Emirates General Authority for Civil Aviation.

“We can confirm there was a whistling noise emanating from one of the doors on the A380 upper deck on flight EK384 between Bangkok and Hong Kong on Monday, February 11. At no point was the safety of the flight in jeopardy,” an Emirates spokesman said:

An Airbus spokesman said: “It is not possible for a cabin door to open on an A380 or on any aircraft whilst in flight, as doors open inwards and have locking mechanisms.”

So, a door on the flight developed a leaking seal.  This does happen from time to time on aircraft of any type.  If you fly regularly you will notice the odd whistling sound coming from around the doors which is the sound made by the pressurized air inside the cabin leaking into the stratosphere outside. These seals often require renewal. When they whistle at you  it’s a giveaway.

However when they whistle, in any jet airliner, the internal pressurization of the airliner continues to push tight the flanges which seat the closed door flush with the side of the cabin against its structure like a plug, meaning the door cannot be opened outwards into the slipstream. You can have a leaky door, but you can’t have a door that just opens out, as you may have observed when cabin doors are opened or closed at the terminal.

They have to be pushed or pulled inwards and turned so that the door seats itself like a plug against the enclosing structure of the fuselage.

The next point is that contrary to what the experienced, and possibly hysterical pilot passenger told the gullible Daily Mail reporter, air doesn’t rush into the pressurized cabin of an airliner from outside, it rushes out, hence the noise from the leaking seal.

The temperature inside the jet didn’t fall below freezing because nothing is coming in. Nor did the pressure inside the jet, which is actively maintained by a very sophisticated cabin amenity system in all jets fall by any significant amount, because if it had the oxygen masks would have popped out of their stowed positions overhead.

The reference to erecting a barrier so that those in economy class below couldn’t see what was going on, presumably to save them from dying in terror, is puzzling, since economy class can’t see anything in business class in the Emirates A380 because they are on different floors of the big Airbus.

The facts, and factual errors, in this story and another about a terror plunge in a trans Atlantic 757 flight are dealt with by the Aviation Herald.

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  • 1
    discus
    Posted February 17, 2013 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    Perhaps Mr Reid handed in one of Lewis’ better pieces of creative writing instead of what happened on the flight?
    I got no further than “massive explosion” A plane load of passengers do not live to write about a “massive explosion”

  • 2
    comet
    Posted February 17, 2013 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    The medical information was also completely wrong. News Ltd said:

    “Mr Reid claims he suffered a chest infection following the ordeal”.

    It has actually been proven with clinical trials that people don’t catch chest infections from being exposed to the cold (contrary to popular belief). People catch the microbe when confined in a room with other people, as when they congregate indoors on a winters day, or onboard an aircraft with 400 other people. However, it was not the alleged cold temperature that gave him a chest infection.

    It also said Mr Reid paid $6,800 for his trip, which he claims was ruined by the ordeal. Sounds like he might like a refund, which may provide a motive for the story.

    Previously left-wing lower-middle class newspapers have now turned right-wing, and seem to succeed by feeding their readers fantasy articles combined with a political agenda.

    Examples like this are a poor reflection on the profession of journalism.

  • 3
    Ken Borough
    Posted February 17, 2013 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    I note that the Airbus spokesman is reported to have said that the doors “open inwards” yet the accompanying photo of the A380 clearly shows door 1L (or whatever it’s designated) opening outwards.

    Que?

  • 4
    Kaki Cooper
    Posted February 17, 2013 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    I was once on a flight that was taking off in heavy rain. A packet of peanuts was stuck in the door seal and rain came pouring into the cabin. In that case air was certainly coming in, but it may be different at 27,000 feet. This story couldn’t have been true. They would have landed had it been that bad.

  • 5
    Ben Sandilands
    Posted February 17, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Ken,

    They both come inwards and outwards before they can go fully outwards. There is a neat guide to the slightly different steps and movements that one performs on the emergency instructions affixed to them which both of us will only get to perform if we are the last standing person near one of them after surviving a crash.

    I think the key motivation for cabin crew in rapidly performing the memorised choreography is to avoid being trampled by a hundred highly motivated passengers in a matter of seconds.

  • 6
    Allan Moyes
    Posted February 17, 2013 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    It’s the Daily Mail! The fortunate thing about newspapers in the UK is that there are several dailies to choose from, so you can take your pick, unlike in Australia where there is almost 90% Murdoch ownership.

    I wonder how the Sun in the UK spun the story – a blaring, alliterative and slightly risque headline with a tie-in to the page 3 girl perhaps (she would certainly have been “freezing” on the trip). What a load of cobblers but sadly befitting the standard of “journalism” in Australia these days.

    Who travels with duct tape? Is it standard issue on aircraft in case a window falls out?

  • 7
    fractious
    Posted February 17, 2013 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    It’s not known to most Poms as the Daily Fail for nothing…

  • 8
    Uwe
    Posted February 17, 2013 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    Such rubbish ever posted about Boeing planes ?

  • 9
    Graeme Hill
    Posted February 18, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    I read this as well and thought “door seal has gone – that’s it”. I’ve been on planes with whistling doors on a couple of occasions; sometimes it’s loud, sometimes its not.

    It is of course plausible that the stewardess lost the plot completely but surely they would have picked up in training that the doors are pushed shut by the pressurisation and cannot open in flight even if you try to.

    If Mr Reid does indeed hold a PPL then I would have thought he is considerably more familiar with the mechanics of aviation than the normal punter but the whole article smells of “big-it-up-to-get-some-compensation”.

    The really sad part is such shoddy sensationalist journalism was carried on some many places without anyone checking it properly.

  • 10
    DrStoat
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Mr Reid may be trying to set up a claim for an ‘accident’ under the Warsaw Convention rules but unfortunately for him, Thailand has never signed the Warsaw Convention, so he will have to try his luck in the Thai or UAE courts.

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