The Safety Lesson From Viral Videos Of Yesterday’s Dramatic Landing Gear Collapse In Miami

On Tuesday Dominican low cost carrier Red Air had a landing gear collapse on arrival in Miami. The McDonnell Douglas MD-82 operating flight L5-203 from Santo Domingo with 126 people on board “came to a stand still off the runway with a fire developing at the right hand wing, where a fuel spill occurred.” Three people were hospitalized from minor injuries during the evacuation.

The fire and fuel spill were contained quickly and impressively. Now we shift to viral social media of the incident and notice two things which happen in every major aviation incident.

  1. Passengers take their carry on bags with them

  2. And stop to take selfies or video the evacuation

How about a man filming himself evacuating with a rollaboard in one hand and drink in the other? And all the luggage being taken down the slide?

Anything that delays evacuation or creates obstacles increases the risk of greater casualties. So a cottage industry in social media scolds follows, shocked that passengers could be so selfish as to jeopardize others on the aircraft.

Some even call for ‘locking overhead bins’ to prevent passengers from taking bags with them. Although it’s always seemed like this would be counterproductive – passengers would still try to take their bags, only they’d stop and take even longer struggling with the bins (in vain) trying to get at their luggage.

You’re not getting your stuff back in a timely manner after an incident like this, so it’s natural and even reasonable to expect passengers to take anything within arm’s reach with them though stopping to remove bags from the overhead seems a step too far.

Evacuation procedures should account for this in the modeling, not wish away human behavior. Instead of trying to change human behavior, we need to engineer around it. And perhaps there should be a credible commitment to return passenger belongings promptly so that there’s less of a felt need to secure one’s belongings in a rogue manner.

We have to deal with people as they are in planning for safety, not wish they were something else.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Goodness, the water and the phone filming is just too much.

    But if my computer bag is at my seat at my feet, I’m not just going to leave it behind. If it became too much to carry at any time I’d just throw it aside, but God knows how long it would take to get that back and in the meantime I have a LOT of not necessarily valuable but hugely important stuff–and difficult if not impossible to replace– in my computer bag, which again is literally at my feet almost always. I’m not grabbing my clothes or anything, not fishing in an overhead bin, and I’m sure not filming the damn thing on my phone; I’m getting the hell out of there, but sure, I’m bringing my briefcase.

  2. Man, one lady had 2 huge rolling suitcases!
    You can’t fix stupid…..

  3. “a credible commitment to return passenger belongings” won’t help much is the plane is on fire and returned belongings will be ashes.

    I’m not justifying evacuating with your bags; I’m just pointing out this part of the “solution” seems ineffective.

  4. I like how @Gary only focuses on what he has a vague clue about. If you’re getting all worked up over a water bottle than you need to get over it, Gary. How do you know the pax wasn’t holding it? When you enter such stressful conditions or events, the untrained person enters a heightened state of alert and may not have even known.

    Would ya start reporting facts, regulations and real stuff and leave the real work to the pro’s? Can you even state which regulation prohibits the carrying of items off a plane in an evacuation?

  5. Assuming the plane wasn’t in water or the cabin wasn’t filling with smoke, there is no chance I *wouldn’t* stop to take my backpack containing $20k in photographic and computer equipment, my financial documentation, and identification. Even if I trusted airlines—which I don’t—who knows if the contents would be damaged, stolen, or just unavailable for hours or longer. And if something happened to its contents, I can already imagine the airline telling me that their liability is somehow limited to $1,500.

  6. @Steve – If a crewmember orders you to leave things during an evacuation, you are required to leave it. All passengers must obey crewmember instructions while on board the aircraft – even during an evacuation. And I’m pretty sure they mention this during every safety demonstration, so the order stands.

  7. As long as the self-absorption of today’s society continues, these stories will be commonplace. Absolutely nothing anyone can do about it. “Social engineering” is a joke. If you think only of yourself, you don’t absorb any helpful information. Grabbing your small computer bag seems like common sense to me, doubt that I’d depart without it.

  8. Based on the majority of the comments so far, it seems that the readers of this blog feel that their *stuff* is more important than their *life*. And, it seems to follow, getting your *stuff* is more important than allowing the person behind you to survive. I think it’s a safe assumption that the majority of the people evacuating didn’t have enough aviation expertise to know their situation. And everything — all that *stuff* — is replaceable. And you grabbing that replaceable *stuff* slows down the evacuation for those around you, no matter what it is. There’s no argument for grabbing what is close — if the plane is on fire, you hustle your butt out so everyone else can get out AND SURVIVE. Can a child whose parent was behind you be replaced as easily as your *stuff*? And for those talking about grabbing what’s close, those seconds could be an eternity depending on the situation. BTW, if you’re not backing up your computer on a regular basis, then that *stuff* isn’t very important.

  9. If someone in front of me in an emergency evacuation stops to get their bags, I WILL run them over.

  10. I think the overhead bins *SHOULD* be locked. I doubt that people will struggle very long trying to open them.

    I’m always amazed at how selfish people can be.

  11. While it does add risk to the evacuation to have anything other than humans going down slides or out of doors, there is a distinction between something under your seat and something that is only in the overhead bin.
    The solution is simply to tell customers that FAA prohibits with enforcement by fine for taking anything off of the plane in an emergency and then have the FAA fine customers with rollerboards or anything else that comes out of the overhead bin. If it makes sense to fine passengers for bad behavior and ban them from flying, the same should be done for ignoring evacuation requirements.
    You never say that it is acceptable to take underseat items but if the fines consistently are for rollerboards and large backpacks, it will be clear that the item you want to hold onto better be pretty small and you should not impede by even a nanosecond in taking that item with you.

  12. It’s sort of astonishing to me how some people overestimate the time it takes to get a bag at your feet. It’s got two handles that are on top. It takes, what, a quarter of a second to lean down and get it? Not to mention the fact that unless I’m right there at the exit row window, there are obviously going to be some seconds of delay in being able to stand up and get into the aisle to move toward the exit anyway.

    Put simply, there would be no discernible impact to my exit time with my one hand carrying a computer bag that’s right at my feet. It’s physics.

    And yes, I have backups, but not of my employee ID badge, passport, other membership cards, cameras with unuploaded images, medicine I might need immediately or within hours, a special kid memento I take everywhere, and more.

  13. Have an automatic lock system for emergencies as well as takeoff/landing and let all passengers know about that in advance. That would minimize people selfishly trying to grab their stuff while imperiling everyone else.

    I don’t mind if people want to get their stuff off the plane as long as they’re willing to sit quietly until everyone who simply cared about survival disembarks, then proceed to schlep their bags off the plane.

  14. Performing an uncommanded evacuation out the left rear door when the engine is still spooling down. You can hear it in one of the clips. Could have sucked a bag or even a person right up.
    That’s a checklist item for evacuation, engines off…

  15. Midfield ARFF is between 08R and 12 they had to cross two runways.
    Tower had to hit the crash button and issue go-arounds for 09 and 12 and confirm the runways were closed before they could give permission for the ARFF units to cross 12 and enter 09. From the recordings the first ARFF unit was there pretty quickly.

  16. Rog, I watched the video from the ramp worker who caught the plane still moving and about a minute and a half later a FD truck was there spraying water on the starboard engine. That seems like a crazy fast response time to me. Its not like airport FD trucks are sitting around with firefighters in them circling the airport

  17. The other lesson is that the US shouldn’t turn blind to leave a Venezuelan owned airline (LASER Airlines fronting via Dominican Republic to circumvent the US laws) operate with 32 years old Mad Dogs.

  18. If you or your bag are remotely in my way to evacuation. You will not be happy. You will be either moved toward the door without your bag or the window, along with your bag. You have been warned. I will be prepared to enforce my safety directive with force.

  19. thank you, Mark Johnson,
    some people don’t get that it is not about them and how fast they can grab their stuff but that said stuff could interfere with someone else’s evacuation including delaying the time it takes for someone else to safely get on or off the slide.
    Further, slides are not designed to carry luggage and the evacuation tests to certify aircraft are not based on carrying anything. There is no assurance that someone behind you cannot get out in time while you take ANYTHING other than the clothes on your back.
    And if you are worried about what is on your computer, you should be backing up continously to a secure cloud service.
    Someone seriously thinks their company is going to come after them because their ID was destroyed or delayed in a documented accident of any kind?

    Fine the people who violate evacuation rules. Period.
    and throw punches if necessary to get people out of the way who carry stuff during an evacuation.

  20. @C M

    If a flight attendant orders you to jump off a bridge, would you do it? Would you encourage others to comply?

    People have a natural right to ignore orders that are illegitimate, invalid, abusive, and contrary to reason. It’s reasonable for someone to take their identity documents and money from a plane that may be engulfed in fire.

    The concept that we should blindly follow orders is why the West is so messed up.

  21. I just think of what my mother, (1913-2012) said: “People are stupid.” Start from that premise and you can explain far too much of human actions…both individually and at all levels of authority!

  22. I just love the people who think their crap is more important than their lives.

    Darwin principal on full display, both on that airplane and in these comments.

  23. @stevo – 1. You would need to prove that, since it’s not standard protocol and would not be included in any training. 2. Any FA who announced that to passengers would lose their job, as it’s against emergency procedures and would undoubtedly make the airline liable for increased injuries caused during the evacuation from people getting hit by other passengers and their stuff. A 50 lb roller bag dropped from a door to the ground or sent out of control down a slide can cause some serious injury or damage the slide so it’s no longer usable.

  24. Hold people criminally and or financially accountable for hindering ab evacuation. Simple as is. Draw the line.

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