British Midlands, Kegworth Air Disaster Essay
British Midlands Airways Limited (trading as BMI or British Midland International) was an airline with its head office in Donington Hall in Castle Donington, close to East Midlands Airport, in United Kingdom. It was acquired by international Airlines Group in April 2012 and was merged into British Airways by 28th October 2012. The airline flew to destinations in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia from its operational base at London, Heathrow Airport.
Although the company was successful as other companies it also faced crises which caused death of a huge number of people as well as causing injuries, in fact the company had a total of six crises. This means there were problems with their crisis management and the company did not learn much from their previous crises. CRISIS The Kegworth Air Disaster happened on 8 January 1989, when British Midland Flight BD 92, a Boeing 737–400, crashed onto the embankment of the M1 motorway near Kegworth, Leicestershire, in England. The aircraft was meant to conduct an emergency landing at East Midlands Airport.
There were 126 people aboard, 47 died and 74, including seven members of the flight crew were seriously injured. The aircraft was a British Midland operated Boeing 737-400 on a scheduled flight from London Heathrow Airport to Belfast, Northern Ireland, having already flown from Heathrow to Belfast and back that day. After taking off from Heathrow at 7:52 pm the plane took off and reached its cruising altitude of 35,000 feet then a blade detached from the fan of the left engine. While the pilots did not know the source of the problem, a pounding noise was suddenly heard, and the plane began to vibrate.
Also smoke poured into the cabin through the ventilation system and a smell of burning entered the plane. A few of the passengers sitting near the rear of the plane noticed smoke and sparks coming from the engine. The flight was diverted to nearby East Midlands Airport at the suggestion of British Midland Airways Operations. After the initial blade fracture, Captain Kevin Hunt had disengaged the plane’s autopilot. When Hunt asked First Officer David McClelland which engine was malfunctioning, McClelland replied: “It’s the left one, no, the right one”.
In previous versions of the 737, the left air conditioning pack, got its air from the left engine and supplied the air to the flight deck, while the right air conditioning pack, got its air from the right engine supplied air to the cabin. On the 737-400 this division of air is not the same; the left pack feeds the flight deck but also feeds the rear cabin zone, while the right feeds the forward cabin. The pilots had been used to the older version of the aircraft and did not realize that this aircraft (which had only been flown by British Midland for 520 hours over a two-month period) was different.
The smoke in the cabin led them to assume the fault was in the right engine; this led them to shut down the working right engine instead of the malfunctioning left engine. They had no way of visually checking the engines from the cockpit, and the cabin crew did not inform them that smoke and flames had been seen from the left engine. When the pilots shut down the right engine, they could no longer smell the smoke, which led them to believe that they had correctly dealt with the problem. As it turned out, this was simply a coincidence.
The pilots did not consult the vibration detectors because these instruments, on previous planes they had flown, were notoriously unreliable. During the final approach to the East Midlands Airport, more fuel was pumped into the damaged engine to maintain speed, which caused it to cease operating entirely and burst into flames. The flight crew attempted to restart the right engine by windmilling, using the air flowing through the engine to rotate the turbine blades and start the engine, but the aircraft was by now flying too slow for this.
Just before crossing the M1 motorway, the tail slammed onto the ground and the aircraft bounced back into the air and over the motorway, knocking down trees and a lamp post before crashing on the far embankment and breaking into three sections. CASUALTIES Of the 118 passengers on board, thirty-nine were killed in the crash and eight died later, for a total of forty-seven fatalities. All eight members of the flight crew survived the accident. Of the 79 survivors, 74 suffered serious injuries and five suffered minor injuries. No-one on the motorway was injured, and all vehicles in the vicinity of the disaster were undamaged.
The first person to arrive at the scene to render aid was a motorist who subsequently received damages for post-traumatic stress disorder. CAUSES The primary cause was the engine malfunction, which then led to the secondary cause which was shutting down the wrong engine. Over all, the pilot’s unfamiliarity with the plane they were flying caused a whole lot of damage. RESPONSE In response to the crisis, Sir Michael Bishop of British Midland took responsibility immediately after the 1989 Kegworth M1 air crash, with Sir Michael Bishop talking to the media on the scene.
He rushed to the scene of the accident giving live radio interviews from his car phone. His voice was patched into a live interview with Michael Buerk on the BBC’s nine o’clock news. He gave these interviews when he had no knowledge of what caused the accident, how many people had died, been injured or had survived. Faced with this dilemma, he focused on how he felt about the crisis and what he was going to do about the situation; he immediately began to manage the flow and the content of the news to the media.
In essence he said he was going to do everything he could to make sure the families of the dead were catered for, the injured were given the best treatment and that he would make sure that he found out what caused the crash in order to prevent it from occurring again. He was so reassuring that the crash became known as the kegworth, where the plane had crashed rather than the BM disaster which was the airline and even though it was later discovered that the crash was caused by human error, no blame was given to the airline. POST CRISIS
After the Kegworth air disaster, it was contended that the crew did not fully understand the problem and reacted prematurely. Unfortunately they did not even think to question to shut the engine down. One could argue and with some justification it would have taken an exceptional crew to have identified the malfunctioning engine. After the crisis, some compensations and modifications were made, amongst these were. Thanks to the Belfast businessman’s intense lobbying, rear view cockpit cameras are now in service with some UK operators.
Another aspect of safety which received attention as a result of the crash stemmed from the fact that although many passengers were killed and horrifically injured, others sustained only minor cuts and bruises. This discrepancy led an orthopaedic surgeon operating on survivors to help conduct a study into the Kegworth disaster. Professor Angus Walace of the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham said: “We discovered a lot of those on board had not adopted a brace position for the impact. ” There were many fractures where people’s legs flailed under the seat infront, and of course arm and head injuries as they shot forward. I’m pleased to say the CAA and British airlines have now adopted our recommended brace position with you head forward by your knees, your hands over your head, and your feet firmly planted behind your knees so they can’t shoot forward. “
But Prof Wallace would like to see further safety measures – including rear-facing seats in all aircraft, a possibility that has been considered and rejected by different airlines, and not purely, they say, for reasons of cost. ‘Backwards is safer’ Chairman of British Midland Airways, Sir Michael Bishop said: “There is no doubt that research has shown it is safer to fly backwards. However, the public don’t want it – they don’t want to fly backwards. Somehow they feel more frightened if they face backwards than forwards. ” The crash did, however, lead to improved communications between pilots and cabin crew. Mr Thompson said the plane had been modified and the pilots had only seen a 45-minute video to explain the new adaptions. He said: “That plane should never have been in the air, but there are things which have come out of this which thankfully should have improved things. “