A Saudi Airlines Airbus A320-214 was greeted with a ‘water salute’ at Dubai International Airport to mark Saudi Arabia’s national day, but the water jet of one of the firetrucks hit the plane instead, blowing in an emergency escape door and injuring a passenger.
The incident occurred when Saudia Airlines flight SV566 was landing from Jeddah King Abdulaziz International Airport on September 20 last year, but has only just been made public by the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) following an investigation.
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There were two flight crew members, five cabin crew members and 119 passengers on-board.
According to the GCAA investigation, the flight and the landing were uneventful, but when the two firefighting vehicles started spraying jets of water to welcome the plane ahead of the celebration of the Saudi Arabia National Day on September 23, the event went wrong.
The vehicle turret operators selected a water jet with a high kinetic energy to form a far-reaching arc but the fire-fighting vehicle positioned on the left side of the aircraft, Fire 8, experienced a malfunction with the water roof turret, which failed to follow the operator's input from the hand controller.
The high pressure water jet was suddenly sprayed upwards and then downwards, as the aircraft passed underneath. The aircraft was struck by the water jet causing the left forward over-wing emergency exit hatch to open.
The hatch fell into the cabin and resulted in the deployment of the left over-wing emergency slide ramp.
The flight crew was alerted to the opening of the emergency hatch by the master warning system and stopped the aircraft immediately.
They were not aware that a water salute had been arranged on arrival at the gate and they were not able to inform the cabin crew or passengers prior to the event.
The Air Accident Investigation Sector has determined the cause of the incident as "the erratic directional movement of the water jet onto the push panel of the left forward over-wing emergency exit hatch."
"This resulted in the emergency exit hatch opening and falling into the cabin, slightly injuring the passenger seated in the window seat," the report added.
"The process of a water salute had not been formally described and risk assessed by the airport fire service, thus the possibility of erratic water turret movement was not identified," the report pointed out.