Airliner door falls to earth 20ft from couple

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The Independent Online

A couple taking a stroll through woodlands near Gatwick airport had a lucky escape when a door from a passing British Airways jet crashed to earth.

A couple taking a stroll through woodlands near Gatwick airport had a lucky escape when a door from a passing British Airways jet crashed to earth.

A part of the 70lb door from a Boeing 777 had become dislodged just after take off and missed the couple by only 20ft.

Details of the incident are to be made public today in a report published by the Air Accidents Investigations Branch. The report is critical of the airline crew for failing to spot the door was not securely fastened.

Inspections showed that only one of the 13 catches on the door had been fastened, raising concern about the standard of inspections by BA staff. The AAIB called for a review of BA maintenance procedures.

It said that shortly after the aircraft carrying 272 passengers took off from Gatwick on the morning of 26 June, 2003, the cabin crew felt a "thump".

The noise was the underwing access door of the plane falling off. Fragments of the door entered the passenger cabin, damaging two cabin windows.

The report said: "A search of the area located other parts and a large portion was found when a couple who had been out walking described having seen it fall nearby after their attention had been drawn by another substantial part of the door impacting the ground around 20ft from them."

The aircraft immediately returned to the airport. There were believed to be no casualties from the incident.

However, the AAIB report warned that the incident created the dangerous potential to cause danger to those on board as well as people on the ground.

"The loss of the door constituted not only a hazard to those on the ground but it also had the potential to hazard the aircraft," the AAIB said.

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