The smoke had not cleared from the crash site of a Japan Airlines Airbus A350 in Tokyo earlier this month, but video footage of the incident had already been uploaded to social media, causing shock and awe in the aviation world. .
But what surprised airline professionals was not the particular emergency, but the reaction to the potentially deadly situation on January 2, in which all 367 passengers and 12 crew members survived.
In my Fly Guy’s Cabin Crew Lounge on Facebook and Instagram, thousands of members of the world’s largest global airline crew community commented in amazement at the calm demeanor of passengers while sitting on a burning plane.
I annotated footage of the crash to highlight how following the example of the passengers of JAL Flight 516 could save others in future air disasters. This video It has now been viewed more than 10 million times.
Here I expand on this clip and explain in more detail the main lessons from this master class example on how to survive a plane crash. Plus, there’s some extra advice from me, A Fly Guy, an aviation specialist with over 20 years of commercial airline experience, including working as a cabin crew manager for Emirates on the world’s largest airliner with capacity for 615 passengers.
Stay calm and don’t panic
What surprised airline professionals most was how calm passengers were in videos captured inside the cabin after the wide-body Airbus collided with a smaller turboprop plane.
The panic vacuum created the ideal scenario for flight attendants to fully concentrate on the situation without worrying about crowd control.
At these times, the crew’s main objective was to properly assess the conditions outside their doors to determine whether they would use their exit or direct passengers to another station.
Cabin crews receive extensive training on how to handle this very situation and what threats to check for – procedures based on data collected from aviation emergencies over the last century.
Approaching their doors and applying intense pressure while they continue their workout could result in using a dangerous exit and lead to unnecessary injuries.
Former Emirates flight attendant Jay Robert reveals how passengers on Japan Airlines Flight 516 gave a masterclass on surviving a plane crash. He writes: “The panic vacuum created the ideal scenario for the flight attendants to fully concentrate on the situation without worrying about crowd control.”
Passengers in the JAL incident at Haneda Airport said the crew took a few minutes before opening the doors, a common practice in airline emergency security procedures.
There are a few reasons why evacuations might be delayed if there is a fire outside the plane, but the main reason is that the crew usually waits for the order from the pilots, who are busy following their procedures to prepare the plane for an evacuation.
During this critical period, one of their main tasks is to turn off the engines to assist with the use of the slides and prevent people from being ingested.
In 2015, British Airways pilots skipped this step before beginning the evacuation of a Boeing 777, which caught fire on the Las Vegas runway. As reported in AV HeraldThe carelessness caused an explosion in the engine that left all but two of the eight slides unusable.
Removing belongings is a deadly mistake that has killed passengers and crew during evacuations. Not only does it slow down the entire evacuation process, but a suitcase could damage the slide and result in the loss of valuable exit. In the videos of Japan Airlines passengers, they keep the containers closed and leave their bags there.
That plane only had three of the eight doors available for evacuation, and passengers could move quickly to those doors and down the slides because their hands were free and they weren’t tripping over their luggage.
If the cabin is filled with smoke, like on Flight 516, you might be forced to climb out and crawl to survive, and your belongings wouldn’t make it so easy.
Stay at the end of the slides and help others exit.
Assisting riders going down the slide ‘crucial’, says Jay
Evacuations require teamwork.
Flight attendants and pilots are trained to remain inside the plane until all passengers have exited, which means passengers must assist on the ground level.
At the bottom of the JAL plane’s emergency slides, the crash victims could be seen in the images helping their fellow passengers recover at the bottom of the slide.
This assistance is crucial as many injuries during aircraft evacuation are due to the use of the slides.
Additionally, weather conditions may affect the use of the slides. For example, in 2016, an Emirates Boeing 777 crashed during a landing in Dubai. Many of the exits were unusable.
High winds were a factor that blocked some of the doors as the slides lifted off the ground.
Riders can help by holding the slides down to stabilize them for use. Additionally, slides can deflate and if this happens, passengers must lift the bottom of the deflated slide and hold it upright and away from the plane to create what is called a platform slide.
Run away from the plane
This aerial photo shows the charred remains of Japan Airlines Flight 516
Two common mistakes occur during evacuations: bags and social media influence when passengers should run to safety.
We are aware that many passengers are carrying suitcases because many other passengers are taking photos and videos as soon as they go down the slide next to what could be time bombs.
Once your feet touch the ground, follow the example of the passenger on the JAL flight: run to a safe distance and join the others.
From that distance, take as many photos as you need to show your followers that you know how to survive safely.
During the Emirates incident, a firefighter who was near the crashed plane lost his life after a fuel tank exploded just minutes after the crew and passengers reached a safe distance.
Prepare for the worst
Jay (above) runs the popular Fly Guy’s Cabin Crew Lounge
On every flight I take, I hope for the best and prepare for the worst. It may seem morbid to think that your plane crashes every time you fly, considering it is one of the safest forms of transportation, but still preparing your mind and surroundings can increase your chances of safely escaping if you face the worst of the cases.
You probably won’t even realize that you’ve already taken this step.
I mentally check my nearest exit and how many lines there are to the door because, in an emergency, smoke often reduces visibility.
Jay Robert, former flight attendant
Every time you take off and land, your flight attendants prepare you and the cabin for a possible accident or emergency.
They are placing seat backs and trays upright and ensuring bags are under seats or bins to ensure you have the quickest exit possible.
When I fly, I carry a small cross-body bag that holds my phone, passport, wallet, and essentials.
If I need to leave quickly, I have my essentials and no connection to the bags I will leave behind. Note that on some airlines you must keep the small body bag if you are seated in an exit row, even if it is strapped to your body.
I also make sure items that could pose tripping hazards, such as trash, blankets, and charging cables, are put away.
Most importantly, I mentally check my nearest exit and how many lines there are to the door because, in an emergency, smoke often reduces visibility.
I check the safety card to identify all exits, as the one next to me might not be usable like in the three accidents mentioned above.
Your cabin crew are also doing a mental emergency check upon landing, so you should not distract them while they are sitting in their jump seats once the captain informs them to prepare for landing.
I always felt terrible in front of passengers in my crew seat.
I had to ignore them because it was against protocol to speak during that critical stage of the flight.