The reporter expressed a safety concern relating to the stowage compartments for life jackets on the Airbus [type] fleet.
The reporter advised that as part of the new business class seat configuration, the life jacket stowage area has been changed. There are now two different stowage compartments which have different safety concerns.
The pull-tab operates a door release latch to allow access to the life jacket. This is often unavailable to customers for different reasons leaving the customer with no access to life jackets in an emergency.
- The stowage area under the table – the fittings and pull-tab are prone to coming loose or falling off completely. This has led to the door being taped closed.
- The floor level stowage compartments – these are often closed with the pull-tab inside. (this is due to the door being opened by persons unknown and incorrectly shut).
The only way to open the stowage area in either case is by using a screwdriver or similar tool.
There is no current inspection for either LAME’s or cabin crew attendants to ensure the life jacket stowage compartment is in working order before a flight.
Reporter’s comment: I believe an inspection of these stowage compartment doors should be part of the cabin crew pre departure cabin checks. It could be achieved with a walk down the aisle. No stooping or bending would be required.
I believe these stowage's should also be inspected by LAME’s at each check 2 (generally required at overnight or extended turnaround).
Operator's response (Operator 1)
Both of these issues have been brought to our attention and a number of actions are underway to address them.
Regarding Point 1:
The loose pull-tab is a known design issue and we are in receipt of a Service Bulletin from the vendor, which replaces the latch with a modified design. The parts for this modification are on order and we expect delivery in the next few weeks and will roll it out across the fleet, starting with the aircraft currently undergoing cabin reconfiguration.
The reporter mentioned that these stowages were being taped closed. This has not been reported internally previously and would be contrary to maintenance procedure. Two aircraft were subsequently inspected and did not reveal any loose pull-tabs or any evidence of life jacket stowages being taped closed. We have included a pre-departure check for cabin crew to check for this condition and report to engineering if any issues are found with the life jacket stowage.
Regarding Point 2:
The pull-tab being inadvertently locked inside the life jacket stowage is a known issue and the vendor is currently developing a Service Bulletin to address this. Of the two aircraft recently inspected, one aircraft had no affected stowages and one aircraft had four life jacket stowages with the pull-tab trapped inside the stowage. Although it is relatively simple to release the door, the average passenger may not be able to open the stowage unless they knew what to do. We have included a pre-departure check for cabin crew to check for this condition and report to engineering if any issues are found with the life jacket stowage.
A maintenance report is currently being drafted to highlight some of the in-service issues that we are experiencing with the new products on the reconfigured [type]. This will be issued to our front line maintenance staff so they are aware of these actions. This will include the two issues highlighted in the REPCON.
Regulator's response (Regulator 1)
CASA has reviewed the REPCON and is satisfied that the short and long term improvements contained in the operator's response will improve the reliability of access to the stowed jackets.
CASA will continue to monitor the issue and may conduct surveillance in the future to evaluate the effectiveness of these measures. However, at this stage no further action is recommended.