4th April 2023

Distractions at critical stage of flight

Initial Report

The cabin was secured and the cabin crew seated. On finals, 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. 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 SCCM 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.

Operators Comment

All crew are trained to deal with inflight events such as go-arounds/missed approaches, medical events and are aware of the critical stages of flight. Two of these events occurring at the same time significantly increases all crew workloads not just of the flight crew. As the medical event occurred shortly before landing when crew are at their stations, the surprise and startle effect could have had a role to play in the cabin crew response. A debrief with all crew at the end of the day will ensure effective communication of issues during the flight and will provide an opportunity for crew to learn from mistakes made during events. Crew are encouraged to report events internally where an additional debrief can take place for the crew involved.

CHIRP Comment

Cabin Crew Advisory Board (CCAB) Comment:

It is unclear from this report exactly why the emergency call/alert was being used excessively. Calm and concise communication is essential and getting accurate information across to other members of the team efficiently and accurately is a must.

As medical incidents do not happen every day this can cause a few moments of uncertainty whilst the situation is assessed and depending on the situation, it may be necessary to expedite landing to ensure the unwell passenger receives the medical care required. Crew members should have an awareness of each other’s workload during the flight, take-off and landing are when the flight crews workload is at its highest. The reported medical incident was taking place with approx. 3 mins to landing, the calls from the cabin, as reported were very distracting. Next time you are onboard, perhaps visit the flight deck at an appropriate time and listen to the sound that the calls from the cabin make, this will give you awareness as they differ amongst aircraft types and may be louder than you think.


Air Transport Advisory Board (ATAB) 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.


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