In the aftermath of a collision between a commercial Airbus A-350 of Japan Airlines and a Japanese coast guard plane at Haneda Airport on January 2, a total of 379 passengers survived a plane fire, credited to the swift evacuation performed within 90 seconds, where passengers left their belongings behind.
While the authorities are yet to determine why both aircraft were on the runway simultaneously, the successful evacuation of all passengers and crew from the burning Airbus A-350 is considered nothing short of miraculous. At the time of landing, the plane was engulfed in flames, resembling a fireball, accompanied by thick smoke.
Swift Evacuation by the Crew
Experts in the aviation industry credit the quick response of the crew for saving nearly 400 lives on the flight. Within seconds of the aircraft coming to a halt, emergency slides were inflated, and all passengers were safely brought outside, despite the cabin being filled with smoke.
A pilot from a major European airline stated on CNN that the rapid and well-executed evacuation resembled scenarios from emergency evacuation textbooks. The modernization of aircraft and focused crew training in handling unexpected situations have contributed to this positive outcome.
The procedures have improved as planes have grown larger, allowing all passengers to be evacuated within 90 seconds. Flight attendants on some airlines can initiate evacuation immediately upon recognizing an emergency situation, without waiting for the captain’s request, saving crucial minutes.
PilotsTogether, a charitable organization supporting airline crews, aligns with this viewpoint.
Crew’s Exemplary Performance
Graham Braithwaite, a professor of safety and accident investigation in the United States, praised Japan Airlines’ crew for their exemplary performance. He emphasized that continuous safety training provided by airlines, such as Japan Airlines, has yielded positive results. Braithwaite emphasized that passengers need to pay attention to safety instructions, acknowledging that flight crews are well-trained safety experts, not just service personnel.
International safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) mandate that crews must practice emergency evacuations annually. Aircraft manufacturers must demonstrate that any aircraft can fully evacuate passengers within 90 seconds.
Regulations Written in Blood
Experts highlight that these regulations are a direct response to tragic incidents in aviation history. Similar incidents occurred in 2019 when an Aeroflot plane caught fire during landing in Moscow, resulting in casualties, and in 1980 when a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight faced an emergency landing, leading to fatalities due to a lack of timely evacuation.
The British Airtours disaster in 1985 at Manchester Airport prompted changes to cabin designs and materials to enable passengers to evacuate more quickly and slow the spread of toxic smoke in case of a fire.
Leaving Belongings Behind During Evacuation
Passengers leaving their belongings behind during evacuation is a practice recommended in safety instructions. It ensures a quicker and safer evacuation. Leaving everything behind and evacuating as fast as possible is the priority. The narrow passage on the plane requires everyone to move swiftly without stopping to retrieve belongings.
An emphasis on this practice has been included in the safety instructions of all airlines. During an emergency, passengers are required to leave all belongings behind, follow the instructions of flight attendants, and move toward the emergency exit.
In conclusion, the recent incident showcases the effectiveness of safety protocols, crew training, and passenger cooperation in ensuring a swift and successful evacuation. While challenges exist, continuous improvements in safety measures contribute to minimizing risks and maximizing the chances of survival during emergency situations.