“You can replace computers, phones, designer bags and clothes. You can’t replace people.”
Hours after departing from Trivanduram International Airport in India, a Boeing 777 makes a final approach into Dubai. Details are still emerging, but we can say that the giant plane caught fire and skidded to a stop, forcing all passengers and crew to deplane rapidly via the emergency escape slides.
This video above shows the state of panic and fear after the aircraft came to a stop. Emergencies are routinely trained for by airline pilots and flight attendants, but for regular passengers the ordeal must have been overwhelming. As smoke fills the cabin, the intensity grows. It’s a tribute to the flight crew and airline that all passengers manage to flee and survive.
Viewing the plane from the exterior, one gets a sense how devastating the effect could have been. The fire from the crash landing burned the top half of the fuselage clean off. Many of the escape slides, engineered to deploy on a flat, or nearly flat surface, were instead lofted up into the air, resulting in a near vertical drop for the fleeing passengers.
What’s frustrating about this incident is that the video once again shows passengers grabbing their bags from the overhead compartments prior to jumping off the emergency slides. This has become a trend during recent emergency landings, even ones with smoke and fire actively burning on or near the aircraft. Remember the British Airways 777 that caught fire in Las Vegas last year? Photos showed passenger walking on the runway with their bags too.
Here’s the deal. Staying on a burning jet to grab your bag or your computer can be the difference between life and death for you and other people on a compromised plane. Planes aren’t fire-proof structures. They aren’t designed to be fireproof. Outside the attractive cabin you see are thousands of pounds of fuel in fuel tanks, hydraulic lines, insulation, engine oil and more…all flammable materials.
— Damon (@smthers) September 9, 2015
— Luke Costin (@LukeCostin) August 3, 2016
Aircraft manufacturers design their planes to be evacuated in 90 seconds or less. They design the number of emergency exits based on the expected passengers that the jet that they will carry. Manufacturers nor the FAA account for the fact that passengers will block the aisles to grab their bags. In evacuation tests, they assume that every passenger on the flight will exit the aircraft in an expeditious manner. Based on recent accidents, this is not how passengers are behaving when told to evacuate.
While technology has improved to make aircraft safer and more robust, there is still significant danger of a compromised aircraft after a crash. If you are told to evacuate by crew, you should get up and leave the plane. The only thing you should take with you is your child. Leave everything else behind. Computers, clothes, designer purses all can be replaced. Human life can’t.