Asiana Airlines has announced the temporary suspension of seat sales for all 14 A321-200 aircraft involved in the recent incident of an ’emergency door opening’ that occurred on the 25th. This measure specifically applies to seats located in front of emergency exits.
Notably, the A321-200 model does not feature an ‘automatic door lock’ mechanism for emergency exits.
On the 26th, during an Asiana Airlines flight, OZ8124 from Jeju to Daegu, an incident took place where a door opened in mid-air near Daegu Airport, causing respiratory distress to 10 passengers. Among them, 6 individuals were immediately transported to the hospital for treatment.
Daegu City authorities reported that upon landing in Daegu, the door opened, leading to respiratory distress among some passengers and a chaotic situation.
The 6 passengers experiencing ongoing symptoms were promptly taken to the hospital. This incident has raised questions regarding how an aircraft door can open during a flight, as passengers forcibly opened the emergency exit door while in the air.
As a safety precaution, Asiana Airlines, which is estimated to have incurred significant damages due to the door opening incident, announced on the 28th that the sale of seats directly in front of emergency exits for the affected model will be suspended indefinitely.
These seats include seat 26A on the A321-200 (11 aircraft) with a capacity of 174 seats, and seat 31A on the same model (3 aircraft) with a capacity of 195 seats. Notably, the passenger who unlawfully opened the emergency exit door was seated in seat 31A of the 195-seat aircraft. These seats are situated in the front row of the emergency exits, where passengers can easily access the door while wearing seat belts.
Now, let’s delve into how the aircraft entry/exit door opened during the flight. The A321-200 model, manufactured by European Airbus, operates using the ‘differential pressure’ method, which relies on the pressure difference between the cabin and the outside environment to open and close the entry/exit doors.
The problem arises when the flight descends to approximately 1000 feet (around 300m), as the pressure difference between the outside atmospheric pressure and the cabin pressure decreases, potentially causing the door to open. This incident occurred at an altitude of approximately 700 feet (213m), merely 1 to 2 minutes before landing.
Consequently, the cabin crew members were seated in their assigned seats, wearing seat belts. However, it is practically impossible for an individual to open the entry/exit door with their own strength at a specific altitude. An airline official stated on the 29th, ‘Due to the significant pressure difference, it is not possible with human strength alone,’ highlighting that approximately 15 tons of force would be required to open the door.
Aircraft emergency exits can be broadly classified into ‘pin-type’ and ‘differential pressure type’ mechanisms. The model involved in this door opening incident operates using the differential pressure method and does not include an ’emergency door lock actuator.’
Among the aircraft operated by Asiana, the A321-200 model is relatively smaller and older, primarily used for domestic and short-distance international routes, with a total of 14 aircraft in service. Asiana Airlines and its subsidiaries are virtually the only companies in Korea that own Airbus A321-200 aircraft. Additionally, Air Seoul and Air Busan, subsidiaries of Asiana, also operate 6 and 9 aircraft of the same model, respectively. Air Seoul has decided to suspend the sale of seats in front of emergency exits, following Asiana Airlines’ decision, while both Air Seoul and Air Busan are currently reviewing their safety measures concerning the A321-200 model.
In response to this incident, Asiana Airlines plans to retrofit the A321-200 aircraft with an automatic door lock device for emergency exits. The installation of this device is expected to prevent doors from opening during flight due to differential pressure. Asiana Airlines has expressed its full cooperation with the authorities’ investigation into the incident and its commitment to taking necessary measures to ensure passenger safety.
In addition to the suspension of seat sales in front of emergency exits, Asiana Airlines has implemented other precautionary measures. The airline has increased the frequency of inspections for the A321-200 fleet and provided additional training to flight attendants regarding emergency procedures and passenger management. They are also considering reinforcing warning signs and instructions on the emergency doors to discourage passengers from attempting to open them.
This incident has raised concerns about the safety protocols and design of the emergency doors on the A321-200 model. The absence of an automatic door lock device has been a point of contention, as it allows for the possibility of accidental or unauthorized openings. Aviation authorities and manufacturers are likely to review safety standards and regulations concerning aircraft emergency exits to prevent similar incidents in the future.”
By Intae Jung/Korea Travel News