Wednesday, June 08, 2005

"Brace Yourself"

31 May 2005

Let me take you back to Kalkar, Germany circa 1985. One of my roommates, Bert is dancing around our huge living room in Berkschestrasse 6 (actually in Bedburg-Hau) to Men Without Hats’ singing their latest song, “Safety Dance.”

Until the day I PCS’d from Kalkar, Bert always called me “Mr. Safety.” Must have been that I had such a wild time during my years in college before I dropped out, that I’d used up about 8 of my 9 lives. Then again, while working for my buddy Bob painting I didn’t earn the nick-name of Dangerous Dave for nothing. Although I got somewhat over my fear of heights and ladders, I never felt comfortable more than six feet or so off the ground! At any rate, somewhere after my youth, I decided that it was time to consider being a tad bit more cautious in how I conducted my life.

Now come on back to London this morning at the Radisson and I’m relaxing and reading a magazine left in the room while soaking in the tub at about 10:30 am before turning in to stave off the jet-lag of the ORD to LHR flight. Business Traveller for May 2005 (www.businesstraveller.com) has this interesting article titled, “Brace Yourself” which I’ve become engrossed in. Author Tom Otley writes that “Frequent flyers all too often ignore the safety demonstrations on board, but a British Airways course shows that most of us have a lot to learn.”

Being quite the frequent flyer as of late, this article naturally piques my curiosity. So please allow me to paraphrase (not plagiarize) and properly give credit where credit is due. I guess what caught my interest is the documented cases cited of past accidents where lives could have been saved if people had taken the time to read the card…AGAIN, and seriously prepare for any emergency. So when you’re traveling next time, take the time to locate your exits, put your reading material away and give your hosts on the airlines your attention. They aren’t reviewing this for their sake.

Page 57 cites “Past Accidents (and the lessons that were learned for passenger safety)

British Airtours, Manchester
On August 22, 1985, a British Airtours Boeing 737-200 with 131 passengers took off from Manchester International Airport. On take off, parts of the engine casing ruptured the fuel tank next to the engine and aviation fuel ignited. The aircraft turned off the runway, but the prevailing wind blew the flames onto the aircraft. A door jammed, two exits were unusable because of the flames and, 60 seconds after the plane stopped, the rear fuselage collapsed. Fifty-five people died.
Lessons Learned: Safety features were changed. Planes now have floor lighting and strong strobe lights by the exits. The design of the aircraft door was changed. Pilots are instructed to stop immediately rather than taxiing off the runway, and the prevailing winds must be taken into account.

British Midland, Kegworth
On January 8, 1989, a British Midland Boeing 737-400 en route from Heathrow to Belfast developed engine trouble. The flight was diverted to East Midlands but crashed a few hundred yards short of the runway, killing 47 people. More than 70 of the passengers survived.
Lessons Learned: The importance of the brace position. Some on board didn’t adopt it and, as a result, fractured their legs on the seat in front (see “The brace position” overleaf)

Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya
In 1996, flight 961 took off from Addis Ababa for a flight to Abidjan via Nairobi, Brazzaville and Lagos. Shortly after entering Kenyan airspace, three men seized the aircraft and demanded to be flown to Australia. Approaching the Comores, off East Africa, the aircraft began to run out of fuel. Not allowed to stop and refuel, the pilot was forced to ditch in the shallow waters off Le Galawa Beach. The left engine and wingtip struck the water, causing the aircraft to break up and crash. There were 125 fatalities; 50 passengers survived.
Lessons Learned: Not to inflate life jackets too early. This was a planned emergency and passengers had donned life jackets, but some inflated while still in the aircreaft, starting a chain reaction. Most of these died on impact because they couldn’t brace, or were unable to escape the aircraft and drowned. Those who inflated after exiting survived. The hijacker in the cabin died, but the captain survived.”
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