Safety on board – an inspiration.
As a Commander in any airline, friends often ask about safety events that are in the media, and it is a pleasure to use the opportunity to try to both to enlighten and to educate.
This not only “calms” people as most people prefer to know what to do instead of being ignorant and unsure about what to do if something happens, but it may also ultimately be that little piece of knowledge that makes a difference in the outcome of a person’s fate after an accident.
So today, after getting some questions, I decided to share some personal tips with close friends on Facebook. It wasn’t meant for a bigger audience, but several quickly asked to share them, so perhaps they could have a wider function.
These hints are, of course personal, but after a couple of decades in the business and having been relatively close to evacuating a few times, they are more or less qualified.
Most people have probably caught up with the plane crash in Moscow recently, and preliminary media reports are many.
Here are a few humble persona hints from someone who is in charge of their crew and their guests, and who – if everything goes according to plan – will also be the last to leave the aircraft:
1. Pay attention
It is incredibly rare for an aircraft to have be evacuated on the ground. However, often the evacuation can come as a surprise to those involved. Therefore, it is especially important that everyone does as they should if it happens, passengers included.
That is why we ask you to follow the safety demonstrations aboard, even though you have seen them a thousand times before. The routines are more or less generic, and the tips apply regardless of airline.You may even have some of your own.
It is an individual responsibility to have the following in mind:
• Leave all cabin luggage and bags behind. All of it. If a person drops his bag and another person stumbles, in practice you may created chaos and have closed the evacuation route for everyone behind you.
• Exit the aircraft through the nearest available emergency exit when the evacuation signal or instructions come. You have to know where it is, in advance. Darkness and poor visibility makes it harder, another reason to be prepared.
• Be mentally prepared for the procedures at each individual departure and landing. Where is the nearest emergency exit? Where are the other emergency exits, in case the closest one for some reason is blocked?
• Is there anyone in the vicinity who may need your assistance if something happens?
• Follow the cabin crews’ instructions. They will shout “jump and slide”, or something to that effect as loudly as they can. That doesn’t mean they are panicking. It simply means that they want you out – RIGHT NOW!
2. Some useful hints after landing:
• If you are seated by an emergency exit and have accepted the responsibility of opening it by an evacuation order, you must look outside before opening it. Is there a fire outside – Don’t open it!
• If you are early off the plane, stop next to the slide and help subsequent passengers out of the aircraft/slide.
• If someone are injured, get somebody to help them to safety, or administer first aid.
• Many might be shocked or confused. Get help from others and use crowd control to gather them in a safe area. The First Officer will eventually be the site leader on the ground, when he / she has finished his role in the evacuation, and until the captain arrives. Later, emergency services will take over.
• In our regions it is often cold, windy and/or precipitation outside, and many travelers are not dressed according to the current weather and temperatures once onboard. Help them to some kind of shelter.
• Beware of the aircraft engines. They will normally be shut down, but a plane crash does not always follow the textbook.
3. Some general hints:
• Wear your shoes, and possibly a jacket, during departure and landing.
• Have your passport or national ID, your wallet and phone on your body. Never put them in the seat pockets. You will probably forget them there if there is an evacuation, and you don’t have time to collect them should an order come. Passengers on regular flights often forget their travel documents, passports, phones, amphibians and wallets in their seat pockets on completely normal days, believe me.
During a controlled emergency landing, the pilots will first stop the aircraft and set the parking brake. Then they will alert the cabin crew by saying “Cabin crew to stations“ (or something similar) on the PA-system (Public Address – Speaker). Then they will make a quick evaluation of the situation and carry out their emergency checklists in the cockpit to prepare the aircraft for an evacuation. If it isn’t necessary to evacuate the aircraft, they will say “Cabin crew and passengers, remain seated“ (or something similar).
If an evacuation is required, it will take a few more seconds (>40 sec) for the aircraft to be prepared and the engines to be shut down. THEN the evacuation command will come. In special situations where the cockpit crew might be out of play/ incapacitated, the cabin crew will be able to initiate the evacuation on its own.
These procedures are practiced twice a year by the cockpit crew in the simulator, and some parts are even rehearsed at the start of each work session. Preparation is important – practice makes perfect. Pilots trust their cognitive and muscle memories in these situations, in combination with check lists.
Cockpit and cabin crew co-ordinate evacuation procedures, fire on board (with real fire in a simulator) and other scenarios once a year at an approved training facility.
When it comes to first aid, fire drills at work and at home, and much more, it is wise to have a plan for events that might happen, even though we all know it is incredibly rare that they happen.
Next time we have the pleasure having you on board – please follow the safety demonstration carefully and make a brief mental review of how to handle an emergency.
If in doubt – Don’t hesitate to ask!
The text above is by no means a complete and approved procedure – just an inspiration.
Thanks – Fly Safe.
Rolf Liland, CDR SAS //Author//
Christer Lundström, CDR SAS //Editor//