Spring Japan B738 near Saga on Oct 22nd 2017, turbulence injures flight attendant

Last Update: December 15, 2020 / 11:56:04 GMT/Zulu time

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Incident Facts

Date of incident
Oct 22, 2017

Classification
Accident

Flight number
IJ-701

Destination
Saga, Japan

Aircraft Registration
JA03GR

Aircraft Type
Boeing 737-800

ICAO Type Designator
B738

Airport ICAO Code
RJFS

A Spring Airlines Japan Boeing 737-800, registration JA03GR performing flight IJ-701 from Tokyo Narita to Saga (Japan) with 128 passengers and 6 crew, was descending through about 15,000 feet towards Saga about 50nm east of Saga when the aircraft encountered turbulence. The aircraft continued for a safe landing in Saga, there were no indications of injuries or damage immediately after landing.

The airline reported a few days later a flight attendant of that flight felt dull pain on her lower back, went to a doctor and was diagnosed with a lumbar spine pressure fracture. The occurrence was then reported to Japan's TSB who rated the occurrence an accident and opened an investigation.

Japan's TSB reported on Oct 27th 2017, that the aircraft was descending through about 4500 meters (14650 feet) when turbulence shook the aircraft causing an injury to a flight attendant. An investigation has been opened.

Taiphoon Lan (Taiphoon number 1721) was nearing Japan at the time, the eye of the Taiphoon was located about 290nm southeast of Saga at that time. The Taiphoon reached peak windspeeds of 175kph/95 knots/110mph.

The JTSB released their final report concluding the probable cause of the accident was:

It is highly probable that in this accident, because during descent, the Aircraft encountered the turbulence caused by a radical change in wind speed and direction and was shaken badly, one cabin attendant, who was seated in the rear facing attendant seat at the left side aft cabin after fastening her seat belt, hit her lower back hard, resulting in a lumbar compression fracture.

It is somewhat likely that the reason why one cabin attendant suffered a lumbar compression fracture at the time of the shaking of the Aircraft despite her fastening seat belt firmly was that she was seated with her head bent forward and her back off the seat back, in addition to the fact that she hit her lower back hard due to the strong shaking, leading to the increase of the stress on her lumbar spine.

The JTSB summarized the sequence of events:

The PIC sat as the PF in the left pilot seat and the First Officer (hereinafter referred to as “the FO”) sat as the PM in the right pilot seat in the cockpit.

During the flight plan before departure, the PIC had anticipated that the Flight of the Aircraft, including arriving at Saga Airport, would be operated under bad weather conditions due to the influence of Typhoon No.21 and the front. The PIC had informed the cabin attendants during the pre-flight briefing that the seat belt sign would be turned off only during cruising flight, and instructed them not to leave their seats for a safety confirmation of the passengers’ seat belt fastening status but to confirm it by making an in-flight announcement.

During cruising at FL 360, the PIC told the cabin attendants that he would turn on the seat belt sign before initiating a descent and instructed them to finish all the required works before it. Therefore, the cabin attendant assigned to the left side of the aft cabin (hereinafter referred to as “Cabin attendant A”), who had finished all the required works before the seat belt sign was turned on, got seated in the rear facing attendant seat at the left side of aft cabin (hereinafter referred to as “L2 seat”) after fastening her seat belt with shoulder harness.

At about 13:25, the PIC turned on the seat belt sign and the Aircraft initiated a descent from FL 360 in the auto pilot mode. Soon after starting a descent, the Aircraft began to be shaken. At about 13:32, while flying around OOITA (waypoint) at FL 226, the Aircraft started to fly into the clouds. The PIC flew the Aircraft while checking the echo of the clouds seen on its flight route by weather radar, but did not find a strong cloud echo that would force him to change the flight route.

At about 13:34, while flying in around FL180, the wind direction and speed changed from the southeastern wind at a speed of about 50 kt to calm wind conditions, and changed again to the westerly wind at a speed of about 35 kt while flying just before ASONO (waypoint).

At about 13:38, at an altitude of around 12,200 ft, the Aircraft was shaken badly. The PIC started to decrease speed by changing the speed setting from 280 kt to 250 kt. The Cabin attendant A and the cabin attendant seated in the rear facing attendant seat at the right side of aft cabin (hereinafter referred to as the “Cabin attendant B”) confirmed each other vocally and visually that their seat belts were fastened tight and low around their hip.

Against the intense shaking, the Cabin attendant A grabbed the bottom of the seat with her left hand and planted her feet firmly on the floor to prevent her body from floating, in addition, she grabbed the frame of the galley with her right hand so that she would be able to confirm the safety of the passengers if looking backward.

Immediately after that, the Aircraft was greatly shaken again at an altitude of around 12,000 ft, when the Cabin attendant A hit her buttock hard against the seat surface, and said “Ouch, painful” involuntarily. The Cabin attendant B was hearing that voice of her.

The PIC and the FO felt that it was the same shake when encountering
an ordinary turbulence. The Aircraft continued to be shaken intermittently until at an altitude of around 10,000 ft.

At about 14:01, the Aircraft landed on Runway 29 at Saga Airport.

After the passengers disembarked, when the PIC confirmed the condition of the passengers and all cabin attendants with the Chief Cabin Attendant to see whether there were any injured persons, he was reported that there were no abnormalities found.

The Cabin attendant A was feeling pain in her lower back but judged that it was transient, and without reporting about it to the Chief Cabin Attendant she continued to be on board the next flight that was her last duties on the day. As she felt pain in her lower back when carrying something heavy or being seated, she tried to cure herself from injury after returning home.

The Cabin attendant A had a home stand-by duty as a replacement on October 23. She had a little pain in her lower back and observed carefully the condition of her lower back.

The Cabin attendant A had a duty on board on October 24. As she did not feel a strong pain in her lower back, she was going to work and picked up the heavy bag containing manuals, when a severe pain was running through her lower back. Arriving at work and reporting the pain in her lower back, she was instructed to have a medical examination at a clinic in Narita International Airport. In the examination, the doctor in charge told her that there was no major damage to the pelvis, but she would have to consult a specialist if the pain would not go away.

On October 26, in the orthopedic examination, she was diagnosed as having a serious lumbar compression fracture.

This accident occurred at about 13:38 on October 22, 2017, at an altitude of around 12,000 ft over Aso City, Kumamoto Prefecture (33° 00’ 40” N, 131° 03’ 11” E).

The JTSB analysed:

(1) Vertical acceleration’s fluctuation in a short cycle

It is probable that the reason why the vertical acceleration’s fluctuation in a short cycle continued from around FL160 to an altitude of around 7,000 ft was because the Aircraft passed the air space where the turbulence was generated. It is probable that the turbulence occurred due to the large vertical wind shear caused by a radical change in wind speed and direction.

(2) Major shaking of the Aircraft

At 13:38, the QAR recorded two major shakings of the Aircraft. Based on this, it is probable that at this moment, the Aircraft encountered the turbulence and was shaken badly.

(3) Condition of the Cabin attendant A at the time of injury

It is probable that because after the first major shaking of the Aircraft, the Cabin attendant A and the Cabin attendant B confirmed each other vocally and visually that their seat belts were fastened firmly at around their lower back, there would be no looseness in their fastened seat belts and thus, their bodies would not be greatly away from the seat surface at the time of the second shaking.

However, the Cabin attendant A hit her buttock hard against the seat surface by the second major shaking and said, “Ouch, painful”; therefore, judging from this, it is probable that the Cabin attendant A got injured at this moment.

(4) Seating posture of the Cabin attendant A at the time of injury

It is probable that because the Cabin attendant A caught hold of the frame of the galley with her right hand, she was seated with her head bent forward and her back off the seat back.

Because the Cabin attendant A was seated in such a posture, it is somewhat likely that when an upward impact was inflicted upon her buttock due to the strong shaking, which increased the stress on her lumbar spine, resulting in a lumbar compression fracture.

(5) Action taken by the Cabin attendant A

The Cabin attendant A continued her duties on board the next flight despite her injury suffered at the Flight, however, it is probable that she should have promptly reported her injury to the Chief Cabin Attendant in accordance with the Company’s Cabin Attendant Manual.

Metars:
RJFS 220600Z 02016G27KT 9999 VCSH FEW020 SCT030 BKN040 21/15 Q0995=
RJFS 220530Z 02016G26KT 9999 FEW020 BKN035 BKN050 21/15 Q0995 RMK 1CU020 5CU035 6SC050 A2938=
RJFS 220500Z 01014KT 9999 FEW020 SCT035 BKN045 21/16 Q0995=
RJFS 220400Z 02015KT 9999 FEW020 SCT035 BKN050 20/15 Q0996=
RJFS 220300Z 03017KT 9999 FEW020 SCT030 BKN045 20/15 Q0997=
RJFS 220200Z 03019KT 9999 FEW020 BKN035 BKN/// 21/15 Q0998=
RJFS 220100Z 02020G30KT 9999 FEW025 SCT080 BKN/// 20/15 Q0998=
RJFS 220000Z 03022G36KT 9999 FEW025 BKN/// 20/15 Q0999=
Incident Facts

Date of incident
Oct 22, 2017

Classification
Accident

Flight number
IJ-701

Destination
Saga, Japan

Aircraft Registration
JA03GR

Aircraft Type
Boeing 737-800

ICAO Type Designator
B738

Airport ICAO Code
RJFS

This article is published under license from Avherald.com. © of text by Avherald.com.
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