Evacuating an Aircraft

While extremely unlikely, it is possible that you will have to evacuate an aircraft at some stage.

I found this air crew training video quite interesting and useful in understanding how air crew are trained to deal with forced landings and how good they are likely to be at handling this stressful situation.

It´s worth a watch if you are interested in understanding more about surviving a forced landing.  Bear in mind that it is just a training film, nobody is under any stress or in any danger here.

I found this both reassuring but also lacking in scope in that the crew seem to take no interest in what happens after the aircraft is evacuated.

It reinforces my belief that we must take responsibility for our own well being in the event of an aircraft evacuation or even any other type of public transport, be it trains, buses or cars.

You would do well to heed this advice should you be offered a choice between placing you life in the hands of an employee of a corporation concerned only with making money or with taking responsibility for your own well being.

Some points about the evacuation in the video are

  • I could not understand what the female crew were shouting immediately after the aircraft came to a halt, stand up stand up?
  • I can´t help but wonder if there should be a holdall full of water and snacks for each crew member to take with them as they evacuate (into the ocean, where dehydration becomes their next problem).
  • There is no way that the half liter per person on each life raft is going to be enough, particularly if they are in a hot part of the world.
  • In a cold part of the world, hypothermia is going to be an immediate problem, handing out those little fleece blankets that they have for everyone to take one with them would be very helpful.
  • This could all be done in the 25 minutes warning time that they had. I accept that in a dire, time critical emergency, there may not be time for this but in this scenario, there was no fire and the aircraft was intact, they had a few minutes before it would have filled with water.
  • This is part of the reason I always try to have a bottle of water with me when I board a plane as well as keeping my important items (wallet, passport, house keys, phone) in my pocket when flying. If I have to get off an aircraft in an emergency then I want to be able to go home without having to go through administrative hell because I have no passport, no money and no comms.
  • I am also highly skeptical of drills like this where everyone just calmly ambles off the aircraft. One thing that I know for sure, if you put a lot of humans into a confined space, people act like idiots and block the way for others. If you add the danger of a smoke filled, burning or sinking aircraft into the mix, I would expect people to panic and most likely act selfishly too.
  • When the cabin crew select a passenger to assist with the opening on the door and raft deployment, perhaps instead of just grabbing the closest person, they should grab the most suitable looking person (ie: the strongest and most switched on looking person there).
  • We should always pay attention to what the crew want us to do but we must also take responsibility for our own survival and that of those around us too. We should do nothing to slow the egress of people from the aircraft, if anyone gets in my way by trying to retrieve their baggage then they will be forcibly pushed out of the aircraft by me however, jumping out into the sea with just what is in the life raft and our pockets is perhaps not the greatest option.

For a more realistic look at how this might play out, this is a video of an actual evacuation taking place as the aircraft is on fire.


  • Several of the passengers had retrieved their carry on luggage in spite of the extreme and immediate danger, you can see them all exiting the rear of the aircraft with their bags.
  • The rear slide was blown out of position either by the wind or by the engine exhaust.  None of the passengers intervened to help.  At last, after a long time, a baggage handler came and helped.  The consequences of that slide becoming unusable are unthinkable.
  • It took several minutes for the fire service to arrive on the scene.  Until they get there, somebody has to take charge and help.
  • Most of the passengers just hung around near the read of the aircraft and did not seen to recognise the need to move away from the burning aircraft full of fuel.
  • The passengers that were first out did not man the bottom of the slides to help other passengers stand up and get clear of the burning aircraft.
  • It seems that passengers in general, cannot be relied upon to do anything useful or sensible in an emergency, they must be coached, shouted at or forced to help if needs be

For a view on what it is like inside a burning aircraft during an evacuation take a look at this

  • It takes time for people to filter through the exits
  • Some of the other passenger who had seen the fire were shouting at people to hurry up and move
  • You can now see why it is incredibly selfish, dangerous, callous and cavalier to stop and retrieve your carry on luggage during an evacuation

It is important that during take off and landing that you have your passport, wallet, house keys, mobile phone and any essential medications on your person, your shoes must be on and laces done up ready to move.  This way, if you do have to leave the aircraft, you can just go and once outside you can do everything that you need to.  You need to do this on every flight.  Not only when there is an emergency.

You can get out of the airport no matter where you are (passport)

  • You can go home (housekeys)
  • You can contact friends, family, order a taxi, find a hotel (phone)
  • Take medication to maintain health (meds)
  • You can pay for food, water, transport or hotels (wallet)

Nothing else matters, it can all be replaced.  If that aircraft in the second video had exploded, the lives of the people killed would be on the conscious of men that stopped to collect their carry on luggage.

I would love to take a full survival kit with me on flights so that I could have some basic tools with me for any eventuality but Airport security rules have completely prevented this and I see no possibility of this ever being relaxed.  You can forget about taking a knife or rescue tool with you.

You can however, have your urban survival kit with you which is those items listed above.

During take off and landing, the aircraft is at it´s most vulnerable, have those 4 items in your pockets at least during the most vulnerable times of take off and landing and be ready to get out if needs be.  If you see anybody stopping and holding up the line to get their bags, you can forcibly push them forwards while shouting at them to move, it´s OK.  Your life is worth more than their laptop but be mindful that panic and stampeding are not conducive to getting out safely but neither is being a selfish idiot.

Large groups of humans together tend to heard like sheep until somebody takes charge.  Everyone sort of stands around waiting to be told what to do next.  If you see this happening and people are in danger, have the courage to take charge, at least until somebody else get´s their whose job it is to be in charge.

What do you do when you get out of the aircraft?  Where do you go?  Find out in the next article.

Adendum: I completely forgot to mention Life Jackets.  In an aircraft evacuation near water, you will be grabbing the life jacket from under or in front of your seat.  These are inflatable buoyancy aids designed to support your head and keep your head above water.   They are self inflating by way of pulling a cord to release some pressurized gas to inflate it.

It is critical that you do not, must never, inflate that life jacket until you are outside of the aircraft.  Many people have died as a result of people inflating them inside.  The serious problem with inflating a life jacket inside the aircraft is that they are extremely bulky and the interior of an aircraft cabin is very confined.  You will struggle to squeeze through the cabin, past the seats and out of the door if you have an inflated life jacket on.

If you inflate yours, the people around you will see it and hear it and most likely inflate theirs too.  Now instead of one person getting tangled up in head rests and life jacket, you can have 200 people doing so and progress out of the aircraft (which is already painfully slow) is even slower.  People have died as a result of this.  If you inflate that life jacket inside the aircraft, you are putting other peoples lives at risk.

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