L2018-01 Accident Resulting in the Death of a Captain at Kittilä Airport on 4 January 2018

An accident that occurred in conjunction with departure preparations of a business jet on 4 January 2018 resulted in the death of the captain. The aircrew included the captain, the co-pilot and a cabin assistant. The aircraft had arrived in Kittilä two days before and was about to take off for a positioning flight without passengers. During these two days the aircraft was parked outside. Considering the season, the weather was usual. On the day of the arrival it was lightly snowing and the temperature was -5 °C; on the day of the accident the temperature was -22 °C.

On the day of the arrival the captain completed the final cockpit procedures alone while the co-pilot was outside putting on the aircraft’s external engine and sensor covers. At this point, the captain, apparently, closed the outflow valve because of the blowing snow.

On the day of the departure the co-pilot placed the aircrew’s baggage into the rear baggage compartment and began to remove snow. The captain and the cabin attendant boarded the aircraft. The captain started the APU which generates bleed air for heating the cabin and electricity for aircraft systems. The captain selected APU bleed air to be ducted into the cabin. Following this, the captain went outside to assist the co-pilot in removing snow and frost.

A moment later the captain went back inside to fetch a pair of gloves. When he came back out, he closed the door. A little later the cabin assistant inside the cabin felt pressure in her chest and ears. She went into the cockpit and knocked on the window to get the attention of the pilots. The pilots discontinued the snow removal. The captain opened the door which, owing to the significant differential pressure between the cabin and the outside, blew open with excessive force, hitting the captain and knocking him to the ground. The pressure wave also knocked the co-pilot down.

After the co-pilot got back on his feet, he alerted the Air Traffic Control by radio. The ATC, in turn, alerted the Emergency Response Centre. The co-pilot and airport workers who had arrived at the site began to administer CPR. The first ambulance arrived within 10 minutes whereupon the first responders took over and continued with the resuscitation. The co-pilot was not injured but the cabin assistant sustained minor injuries.

The operator stated that they comply with the aircraft manufacturer’s Cold Weather Operations Manual. Among other things, the Manual states that the door can be closed to expedite heating and included the following instruction: “if APU operating, check outflow valve is full open". In this case the cabin was pressurised because APU bleed air was ducted into the cabin, the ouflow valve was closed and the door was closed.

On the basis of the investigation the Safety Investigation Authority recommends that:

The Civil Aviation Authority of Israel (CAAI) supervise that Israel Aviation Industries (IAI) updates the operating manuals of the Gulfstream G150 and other comparable aircraft types. Updates to the sections that address closing the door as a means of heating or cooling the aircraft should include a caution to check that the outflow valve is fully open before the door is closed.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) inform air operators, ground handling organisations and aerodrome rescue and firefighting organisations of a safety threat which may be caused by aircraft pressurisation on the ground and consequent explosive door openings. The bulletin must include the actions with which the safety threat can be controlled, as well as a reminder to provide the associated training to all persons involved with handling aircraft on the ground.

L2018-01 Investigation report (pdf, 1.97 Mt)

Published 25.10.2018