Whenever there’s an aircraft evacuation there are photos of passengers taking personal items out of the plane. Sometimes it’s a purse or laptop bag from underneath their seat. Other times it’s the rollaboard out of the overhead bin.
There’s no question that if you’re evacuating the plane you need to do it quickly. Time is of the essence, slowing down could put your own life in danger as well as the lives of other passengers.
One common suggestion is that overhead bins should be automatically locked during an evacuation so that passengers can’t access their belongings. I worry that passengers will spend more time tugging on the bins since they’re locked, trying to get their bags, than it takes them to get bags from an unlocked bin.
Lock the overhead bins and you’ll still have passengers stopping to videotape the evacuation from inside the plane, perhaps taking selfies, and even uploading to social media.
The whole point of evacuation procedures is that they need to be so good they can withstand fallible humans.
- Instead of trying to change human behavior, we need to engineer around it.
- Adrenaline is pumping, people revert to their usual tendencies, and they probably don’t remember what they were told during the safety briefing anyway.
- Passengers assume that if they don’t take their belongings they won’t get them back for an extended pariod of time. One alternative would be to credibly commit – and demonstrate – that’s not the case.
- In other words take away the felt need for passengers to grab all their belongings if you don’t want passengers to grab all their belongings.
Recent hearings surrounding the fire and subsequent evacuation of an American Airlines Boeing 767 at Chicago O’Hare has brought many passenger criticisms and safety changes back to the forefront.
Examining what went wrong in any incident is how aviation gets better and safer. Air travel has become incredibly safe and despite tweets to the contrary not because of the President.
The Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board says fining passengers is worth exploring.
After a number of passengers refused to leave their carry-on bags behind amid a chaotic evacuation of a burning American Airlines jetliner at O’Hare Airport in 2016, a flight attendant offered a federal investigator an idea for dealing with such potentially dangerous intransigence: “Maybe issue fines for passengers who take luggage.”
That’s worth exploring, says Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, which recently finished its investigation into the fiery incident in which the Boeing 767-300 safely screeched to a halt on an O’Hare runway after an engine blew during takeoff.
“I have thought about that,” Sumwalt told the Chicago Sun-Times. “People might be less inclined to worry about all their Gucci luggage.”
It’s worth remember that everyone survived American Airlines flight 383 and that the threat of dying in flames didn’t stop people from grabbing for their carry ons. Fines — unlikely to be on their mind at the time in any case — aren’t likely to either. And fining passengers that have just been through such a trauma seems the wrong way to approach the problem.
In the case of the American Airlines flight from Chicago to Miami where pilots aborted takeoff due to a fire in the plane’s right engine that spread,
- there may be lessons to learn about standardizing the inflight phones across aircraft because flight attendants and pilots had difficulty communicate the extent of the emergency.
- new engine inspections may be called for as it was determined there was an engine defect which led to the fire
- checklist procedures could be improved, since they didn’t call for the remaining good engine to be immediately shut down for the evacuation, leading to the one serious injury from the event.
In other words there are serious and specific learning items that can take place from the event. And serious thought should be given to how to get passengers to prioritize evacuation over everything else. However criticizing passengers — rather than taking fallible passengers as a given — probably isn’t productive.