FC5183(A)

26th October 2022

Distractions at critical stage of flight

Initial Report

The cabin was secured and the cabin crew seated. At 8nm final, the cabin crew called the flight deck with an emergency ‘[alert code]’ chime. The Captain answered and was told a passenger had left their seat and was lying down in the aisle. The cabin was therefore not secure and we cannot land as it is. The Captain agreed and stated we are not landing and will go around.

The First Officer had less than 500 hours and so time was taken to execute the go-around as we prepared ourselves. I pressed TOGA at about 1400ft AGL. Cabin crew during the go around were continuously pressing ‘[alert code]’, so much so that it was distracting for the flight deck crew to manage the go-around manually, talk with ATC, change frequencies and avoid a CB [Cumulonimbus thunder-cloud] at the time. The Number 1 had to be told during the go-around to stop pressing the intercom buttons. The Captain asked if the passenger was conscious to which the answer was yes so the Captain said he would call back once we had levelled off and it was safe to do so. The First Officer was left with controls and radio in a demanding situation whilst the Captain spoke with the crew to find out the nature of the emergency. The cabin crew said, “I don’t know what to do, I have never done this before.” and was very nervous and panicky on the interphone. Cabin crew managed to seat the passenger who was experiencing a panic attack and motion sickness for landing. Landing was made and medical assistance met us on the stand. More training is required to cabin crew to appreciate the critical stages of flight. More training is also required to deal with medical emergencies and situations in the cabin. The Captain could have kept the controls and asked the first officer to find out what the problem was but, given the severity of the call ‘[alert code]’, it was expected to be something very serious and the Captain wanted to hear first-hand what the event was.

CHIRP Comment

Although it is important not to second-guess the crew because we do not have all of the information and context that may have pertained, go-arounds have their own additional risks and factors that should be carefully considered in such circumstances compared to continuing the approach – there’s an important decision to make about which is the more hazardous, continuing the approach with a potentially sick passenger in an ‘unsecured’ cabin or increasing the workload of both flight crew and cabin crew by going around in marginal conditions? Nevertheless, with regard to the repeated use of the emergency call facility, whilst one would hope that this is covered in training, it may not be apparent to cabin crew what level of distraction this might be causing at critical stages of flight – although they were dealing with two events at once, a medical and a go-around, in the heat of the moment it is important to be disciplined in who is giving alert calls and when.