Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Very Little Has Changed regarding the Recommendations over Cabin Safety and Evacuation, Says Expert

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Very Little Has Changed regarding the Recommendations over Cabin Safety and Evacuation, Says Expert

Article excerpt

AN AVIATION expert who worked on the investigation into the 1985 Manchester Air Disaster says safety regulations still need work - 30 years later.

Frank Taylor, 79, claims there is still often too little space between the seats by overwing exits and too narrow a gap leading to the forward doors - hindering fast evacuation.

Frank was enlisted by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch after the British Airtours 737 travelling to Corfu caught fire on the runway.

Most of the 55 victims died from inhaling toxic smoke.

Today bereaved relatives and survivors of the Manchester Air Disaster will gather together to remember the 55 souls who lost their lives on August 22, 1985.

They will no doubt also reflect on their achievements campaigning for better safety on aircraft through Scisafe, a survivor and relative-led campaign group.

The incident, subsequent report, and safety changes, marked a milestone in investigation of survivable aircraft incidents.

Its legacy means, for example, that an aircraft on fire will now always stop on the runway rather than taxiing away from the strip - ensuring passengers are evacuated more quickly.

New regulations have also led to the seats behind the over-wing exits being moved back to create extra space.

But although Frank acknowledges the advances - he says not enough has been done to this day.

Frank, who founded the Cranfield Aviation Safety Centre at Cranfield University, visited the incident site in 1985.

He then set to work examining how the fire had spread and the evacuation procedure, before submitting a paper which was used in the final accident report.

He said: "I went up the day after the accident in Manchester and was there for quite a while.

"Subsequent to the accident we at Cranfield carried out emergency evacuation trials in order to learn more about what needed to be done."

Trials included enlisting members of the public to be 'evacuated' from a replica cabin.

Tempted by Pounds 5 to get out quickly, it added the incentive of speed.

He added: "They had to evacuate through particular doors with particular arrangements of seats and gaps between the main cabin and vestibule area. We tried to replicate a whole range of conditions.

"It was quite obvious from the Manchester accident that people couldn't get out fast enough and seats were very close together. There was a very narrow gap at the front - people got jammed there."

But Frank says too few of their recommendations have been taken up, even to this day.

He added: "The gap at the front leading from the cabin to the forward vestibule is still too narrow - it should be increased up to about 36 inches but it hasn't been changed. Some airlines have adopted a wider gap but it is not enforced.

"The wing exit space in front of seats has been increased - but not by enough. …

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