July 8, 2013

"Why Catastrophic Airline Crashes Have Become More Survivable."

"Over the many decades of commercial air travel, the airlines have learned more and more about why airplanes crash and how passengers survive."
Airplane manufacturers, for instance, are building passenger seats much stronger — they're able to withstand 16 Gs of force. So they don't rip off the floor and go flying through the cabin, injuring passengers, as they did years ago....

"A lot of effort was put into slowing down the spread of fire after a crash landing, making the materials in the interior of the cabin more fire resistant and also changing the materials such that they wouldn't emit very highly toxic fumes," [says Hans Weber, president of TECOP International].
People are doing a great job too:
After Flight 214 broke apart, flight attendants were able to quickly deploy the inflatable slides and get everyone off the plane before the fire erupted.
Credit to the flight attendants and to the passengers getting up and out of there. You'd never know, watching the crowds shuffling about in the airport and drinking and drowsing on board that ordinary people can move in such an efficient and coordinated manner.

Imminent death — as the old saying goes — concentrates the mind wonderfully.

Ah! What we could do if we faced a sudden stark threat, as our ancestors did in evolutionary times! We inherited the capacities they needed then, but we've got so little use for them these days. We go to action movies and ride roller coasters or paraglide to activate the antiquated bodily systems. It's not that we're nostalgic for danger, but built into our depths, there's a need for something that we — in no conscious sense — desire.

Still, if the moment comes, no matter how drunk or obese or debilitated you might be, you will get up out of that seat and — exactly when it's your turn, following the orders of the very flight attendant you may have complained to over nothing 10 minutes ago — plunge down that slide.


Meade said...

email from Bagoh20:

On that paraglider story: It's really unfair to shoot at a paraglider. They fly very slow, so it's like shooting fish in a barrel. Us hang glider pilots fly with them all the time, and we dismissively call them "jellyfish". At my local flying site, we regularly fly right over top of a shooting range. On occasion over the years, some pilots have gotten too low and have mistakenly chosen to land right in the middle of that shooting range while a bunch of people are shooting high powered rifles at targets. Nobody has ever gotten shot, but it sure does piss off the shooters, so the lack of pilots with bullet holes is a real miracle. One time while the shooting was suspended for a few minutes to fix targets, a small group of white tailed deer walked right through the shooting range. The range manager got on the PA system and said: "Don't even think about it."

Meade said...

from mariner:

One reason is that we are defining a non-catastrophic airline crash as
a "Catastrophic Airline Crash".

Certainly this was a crash, as opposed to a landing gone bad (for
example a landing overrun or a landing gear collapse following a normal

But consider:

- The aircraft hit level, dry land

- at a relatively low speed then

- came to rest upright and

- mostly intact.

IMO the truly catastrophic crashes are still unsurvivable, despite the
huge improvements in construction and operations.

Meade said...

from Fprawl:

“Credit to the flight attendants and to the passengers getting up and out of there.”

Had smoke in the cabin at Atlanta Hartsfield on takeoff, we never got out of the pattern, circled to land in 3 minutes.
As we slowed to a stop, the flight attendant yelled, “You see somebody reaching for a laptop on our way out, elbow him in the gut. We are GITTEN’ outa here folks.”

The Patrons at the bar were a little queasy when I walked back in 15 minutes after I had announced I was heading for Orlando. After I told them why.
Boilermaker time.

Meade said...

from Jan:

Two disturbing points about yesterday’s crash which do not make me feel safer:
1) The number of passengers who took their luggage—meaning they clogged up the aisles and delayed others’ escape by opening up their overhead bins—and in at least one case grabbed luggage before grabbing a child. (And is this a cultural phenomenon of pathological materialism or one bad parent?)

2) The new fuselage materials—plastic—which, unlike metal, are highly flammable. (Disclaimer: I am not an engineer, and would hate to do all that math, but I overhear their discussions at home.)

Meade said...

from WMM:

I probably landed at SFO 400 times when living in the bay area. Half of those landings were on the very runway of the crash. Some of them were in high winds, some in dense fog, some in rain and some in all three. It was clear and calm on the day of the crash. Pilot error for sure. A huge error. A dumb error.

But it was not, as you observed, a catastrophic crash. More like a crash landing.

Good move turning off the comments. I comment(ed) as "michael", the investment banker guy scorned by Ritmo and Inga. I brought some of it on myself with those two, having a problem suffering fools as I add on years, and doing more eye poking than I do normally.

Quite a lot of very sharp minds at work on Althouse. I hope you can figure a way to resurrect the comments at some point.

All the best to you and to the professor

Meade said...

from VaneWimsey:

In my experience, both personal and anecdotal, a "sudden, stark threat" does not concentrate the mind or improve performance. IQ drops, judgment weakens, communication skills atrophy.

Just think about the last time you were in a car accident. If you exchanged every bit of required information with the other driver, pat yourself on the back, but it isn't easy to do even that simple kind of task.