“I’m inside a plane! Alaska Airlines Flight 448…”
That was probably among the strangest calls 911 operators in Seattle have ever received, but that’s exactly what a panicked Menzies Aviation airport ramp agent told a dispatcher as an Alaska Airlines 737 roared into the skies above Seattle, while he sat in the plane’s front cargo hold.
The worker called 911 moments after waking up from a nap, when he realized the flight had taken off. The man tried to answer the dispatcher’s questions but the sound is garbled, and then you can hear him screaming in the background and the call ends. The dispatcher tried to call back but couldn’t connect.
Meanwhile, the worker was also banging on the roof of the cargo hold calling for help – a plea that was heard by some first-class passengers.
The pilots declared an emergency and turned the plane right around, landing a few minutes later. The worker was taken to a local hospital to be checked out but he was okay. Alaska says the section of the cargo hold where the worker was napping is temperature controlled and pressurized.
The man, who was part of a four-person baggage loading team, was scheduled to end his shift at 2:30 p.m. After loading the Los Angeles-bound plane, the team leader noticed one of the four employees was missing. He said he called and texted the worker, but didn’t hear anything back so he assumed he finished his shift and went home. The plane took off and after about 5 minutes passengers alerted the captain who turned the plane around. When it landed it was surrounded by security, police, and fire trucks.
Passengers remained on the plane so it could be checked out, and then the plane took off again for Los Angeles just after 4 p.m. Alaska Airlines says it is actively investigating the incident. Airline officials say the worker passed a drug test Monday afternoon.
Is there a lesson here? Is someone watching over the employees with the most sensitive positions? Are there systems in place to ensure planes don’t depart with your employees? Wouldn’t you want your independent auditor to point these risks and exposures out, when conducting a compliance audit? Mishaps like this can be avoided if the proper procedures are set in place to manage and oversee the day-to-day operations of your business. When we conduct an audit, we observe your businesses operations to identify efficiencies you might be missing. You should receive benefits for your costs, and a systems review could be one of those benefits.