Leaving an item behind while getting off a plane can be frustrating enough, but what happens when an item is left near the plane’s engine?
This was the scenario passengers flying with Jetstar ran into when a ground worker — who happened to be carrying a clipboard while conducting pre-flight checks — placed his board in the Airbus A380’s engine cowling covering and never remembered to retrieve it.
A new report on the investigation from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau explains just how the unexpected incident, which took place in October, forced the flight originally scheduled to travel from Auckland to Sydney to return to New Zealand.
According to the report, a ground worker who had a clipboard with relevant paperwork on him was preparing the aircraft for service and loading containers when he put the clipboard into the plane’s right engine to protect it from rain and wind outside at the time. Although the worker intended to retrieve the clipboard, according to the report, the item was forgotten about.
A dispatcher who conducted a walk through of the aircraft noticed the clipboard sitting in the engine, but assumed that the worker would return to retrieve it, so she left it where it was. At the same time, the worker who left the clipboard thought the dispatcher would have grabbed it, so the aircraft took off.
As the plane was taxiing, the ground crew noticed scraps of paper on the ground and contacted the flight crew. Once the captain found out that the metal clip of the board was in the engine, the flight crew decided it would be best to turn the flight around for the safety of passengers.
“The presence of foreign object debris poses a significant threat to aircraft safety,” officials said in the report. “It has the potential to cause aircraft damage during critical phases of flight, costing airlines and airports millions of dollars each year,” they added.
The clipboard was “ingested” by the engine as the aircraft prepared for takeoff, according to the report, and left minor damage to the engine’s fan blade and its attrition liner (responsible for assisting with noise controls).
Since the incident, Jetstar has updated its dispatch procedure to provide more detailed guidelines for ground crew and flight crew communications, warnings about items left in the engine cowling, and more detailed guidelines on aircraft checks.