Some passengers on a Jet2.com Boeing 737-800 ordered to evacuate the aircraft on the runway through over-wing exits after a rejected takeoff changed their minds when they realized there's no escape slide, says the UK's Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) in a new report.
The passengers, after realizing their was no imminent danger (the crew had aborted the takeoff because they thought the cabin was filling with smoke, which turned out to be condensation, or mist, or fog), went back into the cabin and took the slide route. I'm not sure I can blame those passengers, even though their turnaround slowed down the evacuation. Of course also slowing the evac were other considerate passengers who decided to retreive personal items from overhead bins when told by the pilots to bolt...
I've flown 737s for many years, often near the over-wing exists (I like to watch the engines), and I never realized the path to safety from that exit is not at all benign. Once the pilots decide there will be an evacuation on the runway, they put the flaps in the fully deployed position. That still leaves about 42 inches of open air (and as much as 6 ft if the flaps are up) between the bottom of the flap and the ground, assuming the aircraft is on a level surface.
Add nighttime and rain into the equation and the AAIB figures it this way - "In the case of the over wing exits, sliding six feet to the ground off a wet flap can be a daunting experience but the aim is to escape from the aircraft and, as such, carries a degree of risk." .
To me, this guy getting off the Southwest 737 that pranged its nose gear when landing at LaGuardia this summer has a much better experience on the slide.
Of course, in the dark and rain, the slides of the Jet2.com 737 didn't work all that well either. As the AAIB put it, "This caused a number of injuries, as people collided or were knocked over onto the ground...".
As a result of the incident, Jet2 has updated its on board safety card “to reflect the need for passengers, evacuating via the overwing exits, to slide down the trailing edge of the wing,” says the AAIB. “Also, the verbal briefing given to passengers occupying seats adjacent to the overwing exits has been amended to stress the requirement to turn aft, immediately after evacuating through the exit, and to slide down the trailing edge of the wing.”