They say flying is one of the safest yet most dangerous means of travel. Due to past lessons, aircraft manufacturers and airlines have taken safety seriously to the last detail. Almost all types of emergency situation and crashes have been simulated and aircraft are tested to their limits, yet, air accidents still do happen wherein some people have lost their lives. Other than the aircraft and the pilots flying them, it is the cabin crew who are at the forefront of assuring the safety and comfort for the passengers.
Cabin crew members from all airlines all over the world undergo rigorous training when it comes to safety. In exams, only one of even no mistakes are permitted as safety is everything. They spend days, weeks, and months, just memorizing cabin crew manuals which include aircraft details, safety procedures, case studies, and these are even twice thicker than the A-volume of an encyclopedia. Cabin crew members also simulate different situations, what to do during emergencies, and how things would be carried out. They dive into a 10ft pool and climb on life rafts, they slide off an aircraft using the emergency slides, and so much more. Some are even made to watch "Air Crash Investigation" for case study purposes. No details is left out during training, hence, any single cabin crew would know the complete safety features of an aircraft over any other passenger, unless the passenger is or was a cabin crew, or one of those involved in the manufacturing of the aircraft. Hence, these are it is very very important to obey and not disregard your cabin crew, especially when they are implementing standard safety procedures like asking you to put up your window shades, keeping seatbelt fastened, and so on. All the more is it very important to pay attention to the safety demo or video at all times, everytime you fly. Disregarding a single detail may mean life or death.
As you see, an aircraft is totally different from a public bus or train. Totally! When a bus or train breaks down, all it has to do is to stop and disembark passengers. If there is a fire, it just has to stop and get passengers out right away. A bus and a train does not leave the ground. An aircraft is totally different. It is a huge metal pressurized tube that flies at 40,000ft above in thin air at about 900kph! During an emergency, an aircraft cannot just pull over and ask passengers to get out. It has to go down from 40,000ft, look for the nearest airport if possible, and land. Also, an aircraft is no different from a space ship. They are both a life support system. An emergency inside that huge metal tube flying tube at 40,000ft can end up very catastrophic, hence, aircraft manufactureres, airlines, and regulators, all work together to the last detail to equip aircraft with all safety features. Moreso, they make sure that the cabin crew are very well trained to follow and apply strict standard safety procedures. They were also taught meticulously what to do given different emergency situations.
Just recently, a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 suffered an explosive decompression caused by an engine explosion that sent debris breaking a passenger window. A passenger was halfway sucked outside the aircraft at 32,000ft as other passengers helped keep the victim from flying off. This caused all oxygen masks to deploy. A passenger managed to take a video of the incident. Unfortunately, one life was lost, but aside from that, the pilots were able to land the damaged aircraft safely.
Apparently, the passenger who took the video drew flack as he, together with other passengers, were wearing the oxygen mask below their noses! Some still even kept their earplugs on, hence, limiting themselves in hearing other necessary safety instructions. According to others, this passenger even paid $8 for wifi access so he can live stream the incident.
This is a clear show of the lack of knowledge on airline safety procedures and this is because fliers nowadays does not pay attention to their cabin crew nor the safety video. Safety cards are also disregarded, which are basically just located in the pockets under the table. It is a disturbing indication that flying passengers are associating flying in an aircraft to just riding a public utility bus. Sit down, do whatever you want, ask for whatever you want, and enjoy the ride.
The oxygen masks are supposed to be worn above the nose and mouth as shown in our first two pictures. This is to allow passengers to breathe normally at very high altitude in the event of an explosive decompression until the pilot is able to bring down the aircraft to a level where people can breathe normally again without the aid of oxygen masks.
This post is to show real situations where passenger air injuries and deaths were caused by simply not following the instructions of cabin crew members. This is not to scare you, but to make you aware that everytime you fly, regardless of how many flying hours you have, you should always pay attention and listen to your cabin crew. Moreso, you have to obey them. When something goes wrong, even the minute detail can mean a life or death situation. If not you, it may be the passenger next to you who may suffer the consequences of you not following your cabin crew.
Ethiopian Air 961
Last November 23, 1996, a hijacked Ethiopian Air B767-200ER crashlanded in the Indian Ocean due to fuel exhaustion. It's original flight path was from Addis Ababa to Nairobi but was hijacked by three Ethiopians seeking asylum in Australia. The hijackers wanted the captain to fly to Australia but the aircraft did not have enough fuel for that route.
Due to fuel emptying, the pilot had to crash land the aircraft in the ocean which eventually caused it to break apart due to the current and impact of the water on the engine and wings. Though quite a number of passengers died on impact, most who died actually survived the initial crash. What killed them? They did not follow the crew's instructions not to inflate lifevests inside the aircraft! This caused them to be pushed towards the ceiling when water started coming in because of the inflated life jackets. That made them unable to escape the exit doors and the openings of the aircraft wherein they eventually drowned. Of the 175 passengers and crew, 125 were killed.
During any emergency situations, each and every small detail of the cabin crew's instructions must be followed. Just like what happened in the Ethiopia Air flight 961 crash, passengers who disregarded the crew's instructions NOT to inflate their life jackets inside the aircraft were killed. An incident which would have been different if only passengers listened and followed their crew.
United Airlines 826
On Deceber 28, 1997, a Boeing 747-100 of United Airlines was operating a normal commercial flight from Narita Airport (formerly New Tokyo Airport) to Honolulu with 374 passengers and 19 crew members. Two hours in the flight, the pilot received a warning of the presence of clear air turbulence in the area and the seatbelt sign was turned on. Moments later, the aircraft suddenly dropped 100ft and shot back up. The velocity was so fast that a purser was literally hanging upside down while holding the countertop, feet were in the air. That was not the end. The aircraft then pitched up then dropped heavily again and went back to normal after a moderate climb. A passenger who was not strapped into her seat that time was found lying unconcsious and bleading heavily in the aisle. The injured flight attendants together with a doctor on board did resuscitation procedures on the passenger but was later on, pronounced dead. A total of 102 passengers and crew members suffered injuries.
Clear air turbulence is usually undetected by radar. They happen when masses of air of different speed meet, causing turbulent movement in air masses. They are very discomforting but not strong enough to break an aircraft. Passenger aircraft nowadays are designed to withstand all kinds of air turbulence, but a person's body is not. Notice that after take-off and when the pilot switches off the fasten seatbelt sign. the cabin crew still reminds us to keep our seatbelts on all the time for safety reasons. This is because we can get thrown off when an aircraft flies into CAT or clear air turbulence. Also, it is very very important for us to follow our cabin crew during descend and landing especially when they stop you from going to the lavatories because the fasten seatbelt sign is on, unless you are unable to hold it already.
Leave Your Handcarries During Emergency Evacuation
Our personal belongings are yes, important to us, but we have to bear in mind that lives of others are more important. Our material things are replaceable but lives are not. When your cabin crew declares an emergency evacuation due to let's say the danger of an engine fire or explosion, everyone has to be out the aircraft the soonest time possible. A split second difference may mean a life or lives for that matter.
Up to now, we still see passengers take with them their personal belongings like bags during an emergency evacuation. For one reason or another, it is said to say that their personal belongings are more valuable than the lives of others. Last October 2017, a Cebu Pacific Airbus A320 slid off the runway at Iloilo Airport which made the cabin crew declare an swift evacuation through the slides of the aircraft. Though there was no sign of imminent danger during that moment like smoke, it was still best that passengers were to clear the aircraft before anything happens. The cabin crew was able to evacuate all passengers with no injuries. Photos though showed that some went down the emergency slides carrying their own bags!
When we spoke to some of the cabin crew, they said that some of the passengers were even arguing it out after being told to leave all personal belongings behind and to just evacuate the aircraft.
Taking our bags from the overhead stowage compartment may take time. Every second counts during an emergency evacuation. It may take 3 to 5 seconds just to get our bags off the OSB, and within those 3 to 5 seconds delay, an aircraft can explode with some passengers on board. That is just for one passenger. What more if there were 10 more or 20 doing the same thing. The worst guilty feeling would be seeing other lives sacrificed just because of a selfish thought of prioritizing our own personal belongings first.
China Airlines 120
Gladly, no fire erupted from the Cebu Pacific A320, but we should never take things for granted. On August 20, 2007, a China Airlines Boeing 737 engine caught fire after landing at Okinawa, Japan. It was caused by a bolt puncturing one of the fuel tanks. The cabin crew commenced an emergency evacuation wherein 4 slides were deployed. The aircraft exploded later on. None of the passengers were injured. A flight attendant though who was last to leave the aircraft fell to the ground when the aircraft exploded. If you will watch the video below, notice that some passengers were going down the slides with their luggage! So just imagine the time wasted inside the aircraft when these passengers were trying to get their luggage from the OSB. The flight attendant's life was hanging by a hairline. Gladly, she survived, but just imagine if everyone simply cooperated by not taking their personal belongings during an emergency procedure. We are pretty sure the last flight attendant on board would have gotten out earlier safely through the slides. Again, every second counts.
Always Follow Your Cabin Crew
Seatbelts always fastened, tray tables up, windowshades up, seats in upright position, and to always read the safety card found in the seat pockets in front. These are mostly taken for granted by passengers which are actually the most important things to remember when flying. During take-off, your seatbelt should always be fastened so you don't get thrown off. Your window shades should be up so that you yourself can assess the situation outside during an emergency. Lights are dimmed so your eyes can adjust to the natural light coming inside the cabin incase of an emergency situation that causes the electricity inside an aircraft to go out. Your tray tables have to be stowed so you and the passenger next to you can get off your seats straight to the aisle incase of an emergency evacuation. Seats have to be in upright position so the passenger behind you can get out swiftly too, again, during an emergency. Electronic devices like ipods or music players have to be switched off during take-off and landing so you can properly hear instructions from your cabin crew and pilot.
All instruction and procedures given and done by the cabin crew are not there to be disregarded. They were written altogether by the aircraft manufacturer and the international air safety board to ensure you a safe flight. The cabin crew's primary role is to ensure your safety. Comfort like serving you coffee or tea is just secondary. Cabin crew members trained so hard to make sure that every detail is covered when it comes to safety and this is why it is very very important to not disregard these safety instructions and procedures.
More than the comfort, an airline's priority is the safety of all it's passengers, to get to your destinations safely. Air travel may be safe but it is still nothing against the forces of nature. Even with all the safety features on board, an aircraft at the end of the day is a piece of huge flying life support metal tube with tons of fuel just below your seats. Anything can happen and it is training and skills of the flight crew who will ensure your safety, not without your cooperation also.
At the end of the day, it is a combination of the aircraft manufacturers, the pilots, the cabin crew, the ground crew, the maintenance crew, and the cooperation of all passengers on board that makes air travel safe.
Always obey and pay attention to your cabin crew. Have a safe and comfortable flight!