Aeroméxico Flight 2431 was taking off for Mexico City last Tuesday when the aircraft plunged suddenly.

When looking at the wreckage of the airliner it’s hard to believe that everyone survived the crash. -photo: AFP

The Embraer E-170 crashed as it was beginning to climb in heavy rain in Mexico’s state of Durango.

The mid-sized jet was almost full, with 103 people on board, including two infants and four crew members, when it crashed about 4 p.m. local time.

Both of its engines were knocked off, and it plowed through an open field before coming to a halt 328 yards beyond the departure end of the runway.

 

All passengers and crew escaped alive before the plane was engulfed in flames, though 85 of them were injured. Some called their survival a miracle.

Not a miracle
David Gleave, a crash investigator and air safety consultant in the U.K., told NBC that the lack of fatalities was the result of years of work “to ensure that an even like this is something people can walk away from.”

Aeroméxico chief executive Andres Conesa said it was too early to speculate on the cause of the crash but praised the timely reaction of crew and passengers in helping everyone to escape.

Still, the accident calls attention to safety issues such as the shrinking space between rows, according to Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights.org.

“We wonder if the 27-29 inch pitch on many new U.S. airliners would have allowed all passengers to exit without any deaths as happened in the fiery crash of the fully loaded Aeroméxico 31-inch pitch Embraer ERJ-190 outside Durango,” he said

Hudson  added, “We’re also wondering if the observed fall-from-the-sky crash just after takeoff might have been at least partially caused by an overweight aircraft using obsolete weight estimates approved by the FAA.

“We wonder if the two across instead of the more common 3-6 across seating in most airliners also contributed to this successful emergency evacuation.”

A Foreshadowing

A similar botched landing with a comparable result occurred two years ago when an Emirates flight crash landed in and burst into flames at Dubai International Airport.

Fortunately, all 300 passengers and crew on board the flight made it to safety – in nine minutes – just before the aircraft became engulfed by fire.

The big similarities of these two accidents is that both of these airlines provide generous seat space in economy class – a minimum 31 inches of seat pitch.

Chaos in the cabins was reported by survivors of both evacuations. Yet when the FAA proudly posts videos of “successful” test evacuations, panic is never a factor. We see only silent, physically fit and well-coached young people parading politely into the aisles and toward the exits – always beating the clock, of course. Though these experiments are crucial, their obvious lack of validity would disqualify them from serious consideration at a good high-school science fair.

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