One of the emergency slides on the double-deck Airbus A380 apparently deployed “accidentally” as the aircraft was taxiing for takeoff, causing a Qantas flight from Los Angeles to Sydney to be delayed by more than three hours.
As Qantas aircraft QF12 was getting ready to take off from Los Angeles International Airport for its 14-and-a-half-hour flight to Sydney, the event happened on Monday night.
The pilots apparently heard an electronic alert in the flight deck that one of the emergency doors was not properly closed as the nearly 15-year-old superjumbo was taxiing to the runway.
The A380 has equipped with a total of 16 emergency exits: two overwing exits with specially modified evacuation slides, eight slide raft-equipped exits on the main deck, and six slide raft-equipped exits on the upper deck.
The pilots noticed that the emergency escape on the main deck’s back left corner, also known as the M5L door, was not fully locked when QF12 was approaching the runway.
One of the team members went to physically inspect the door, and according to witnesses, while doing so, the crew member “jiggled” the door handle. The emergency slide, which had been armed in advance of takeoff, was activated by that tiny jiggle movement.
The passengers had to board another aircraft while the slide was being removed by the Qantas engineering team, therefore the jet had to be towed back to the gate.
An unintentional slide deployment, as they are formally known, could cause a three-hour delay that the aircraft manufacturer Airbus predicts will cost Qantas at least $22,000 USD.
Despite efforts to lower these kinds of mishaps, Airbus still receives between 30 and 40 reports of unintentional slide deployments on its aircraft each year. Emergency departure doors on Airbus aircraft are equipped with a specific “slide armed” light and buzzer to alert pilots that the emergency slide is armed and will deploy if the door handle is raised, in contrast to rival manufacturer Boeing.
Since that boarding and loading procedures mostly take place at the forward left door and the rear right door, these doors are where the majority of unintentional slide deployments happen.