Japan Airlines is contemplating saving a part of the jetliner that was burned after collision with a Japan Coast Guard Aircraft in Tokyo.
The passengers of the ill-fated aircraft displayed a copy-book evacuation, saving the lives of all on board. The one action that made their miraculous evacuation possible was all of them leaving behind their luggage.
— Breaking News (@PlanetReportHQ) January 2, 2024
However, the Japanese passengers have been an aberration. If the accidents in the past couple of years are anything to go by, then Indians, British, Russians, and Americans all want to retrieve their hand baggage before running for their lives.
Aviation experts indicate that after 90 seconds of an emergency, the chances of an aircraft catching fire increase.
The collision on a runway at the Haneda airport in Tokyo killed five of the six people aboard the Coast Guard’s Bombardier DHC8-300 aircraft and left its captain severely injured, while all 379 passengers and crew on the JAL Airbus A350-900 managed to escape.
In 2019, after an Aeroflot jetliner burst into flames during an emergency landing in Moscow recently, some passengers who had just escaped were seen walking across the tarmac with luggage in hand. Forty-one people perished in the accident as the passengers stopped to grab their belongings before exiting the burning plane despite repeated safety instructions.
Aeroflot said the evacuation was completed in 55 seconds, but the passengers rummaging through overhead lockers and blocking the way could have saved a few seconds, the difference between life and death.
The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation released a video of the accident and evacuation of the Aeroflot Sukhoi Superjet that crashed at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport in Russia on May 5, 2019 #SU1492 pic.twitter.com/4RlSdHjcjZ
— Aviation Safety Network (ASN) (@AviationSafety) April 15, 2020
For aircrew, people stopping to retrieve their baggage in times of emergency is the pet peeve. Passengers are more concerned about their replaceable possessions than the precious lives of those behind them, despite the flight attendants’ best attempts to persuade them to simply get off the aircraft.
In 2016, an Emirates Airline Boeing 777-300 with Indians belly-flopped wheelless onto the tarmac, skidded, and spun before coming to a halt at the Dubai International Airport.
The video from inside the aircraft was shared on social media X, earlier Twitter. The anxious flight attendant can be seen shouting – “Jump! Jump! Jump! Leave your bags behind. Jump and slide. Jump and slide!” However, in the face of mortal danger, the passengers are seen wasting time and grabbing their bags from overhead lockers.
At around 36 seconds into a longer version of the video posted on Twitter, it appears someone is talking about getting their laptop. One minute and 23 seconds into the longer video of the evacuation, a passenger pans the camera over to film the engine fire. Part of the aircraft did explode not long afterward. The crew’s efficiency saved lives.
In September 2015, a British Airways plane caught fire on the runway in Las Vegas. You can see in the report from the time that in the rush to get off, some passengers have still taken their bags with them.
In July 2013, an Asiana Airlines plane crash-landed in San Francisco. Again, the photos show that passengers have grabbed their bags during the evacuation.
The 90-Second Rle For Air Safety
During evacuation tests, the aircraft makers have repeatedly harped on clearing an aircraft within 90 seconds using only half the exits to maximize the number of people saved. Studies have shown that a cabin’s chances of being consumed by fire increase after 90 seconds.
However, the practice evacuation drills do not take into account people trying to take their luggage with them. The attempts to get your hand baggage can slow things down. And to add, a laptop or piece of luggage with a sharp edge could potentially puncture the inflatable escape slide.
Despite the potential for mass panic, the flight attendants on the Japanese airlines can be heard urging everyone to “please cooperate” and evacuate the plane without stopping to collect their carry-on luggage.
They had everyone down the inflatable slides and off the plane. The last crew member left the plane within 18 minutes of the collision. The aircraft was engulfed in flames just 10 minutes after the last person deplaned.
In its certification, Airbus Air was required to prove that its A350 aircraft could be evacuated in less than 90 seconds using half of the exits on the plane. This involves volunteers, some of whom carry dolls the same size and weight as children, to carry out a simulated evacuation.
The Japanese airliner evacuation took longer than 90 seconds, but it was because the flight crew spent time assessing which of the plane’s eight exits were safe to use. With five of the exits inaccessible, including one that was engulfed in flames, all passengers and crew managed to escape through three exits.
Aviation experts have long been advising passengers against retrieving bags during emergency evacuation. The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) surveyed passengers and flight attendants involved in 46 different evacuations in 2000. The survey found that close to 50 percent of people in an evacuation try to take a piece of luggage with them.
The surveyed aircrew indicated that passengers trying to retrieve their luggage had been the biggest cause of delays, often resulting in screaming matches with unrelenting passengers.
- Ritu Sharma has been a journalist for over a decade, writing on defense, foreign affairs, and nuclear technology.
- She can be reached at ritu.sharma (at) mail.com
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