July 11, 2013 | Kendall Creighton Asiana Crash Highlights Need for Better In-Cabin Safety Tuesday, July 9, 2013 The July 6, 2013 San Francisco Airport tragedy highlighted weak safety measures that FlyersRights has supported for years. Asiana Airlines crash interior The mainstream message has been about how many improvements have been on the body of the aircraft to keep the plane from breaking up on impact. But no one is talking about the vital safety improvements needed inside the cabin, except FlyersRights. Here are the safety issues not being addressed: * FAA does drills to ascertain whether people can exit a plane in 90 seconds under certain very controlled conditions. * They never use a plane with substandard seat pitch. (A relative term since there are NO FAA REGULATIONS mandating seat pitch in any row other than the exit rows, only the aisle width and exit row seat pitch for egress in an emergency are regulated by the FAA). * To increase profits, airlines have been allowed to insert rows of seats making the pitch substandard and deadlier from an egress and Deep Vein Thrombosis standpoint on longer flights. Billowing smoke from Asiana 777 crash * Only the flight crews are given smoke inhalation masks. Passengers are not given any such safety mechanism. Smoke inhalation and lack of egress are the largest cause of injuries in any crash. * There are many problems with assuming the brace position as described in safety materials in the seat pocket. Primarily that it is impossible when the seat ahead is too close. With the steadily shrinking distance between seats to squeeze in more passengers, the average sized person cannot brace themselves. * Additional cause of injury and death is the plastic melting from the overhead compartments (another shortcut on airline equipment; the airlines could put in titanium baggage compartments that don’t melt). One Passenger: ‘We Had to Help Each Other Out’ According to Asiana Passenger Benjamin Levy, passengers were on their own. There were no announcements from the cockpit, and the flight attendants were nowhere to be found. He pried open the escape door and began to call out directions. Between 30-40 passengers managed to escape through the door beside him, he said, even though no chute had inflated at that exit. The chutes at the other emergency exit doors had properly deployed and many other passengers clambered down to the tarmac onto piles of scattered debris, Mr. Levy said. But he and several others remained aboard to assist other passengers Instead, they headed to the back of the plane, which seemed to have taken the brunt of the impact. The overhead compartments had opened during the crash, pouring down luggage on passengers. Vital Advice * Don’t attempt to retrieve your personal belongings. Focus on getting safely out of the aircraft as quickly (and calmly) as possible. Many experts were astonished to see survivors in the photo above actually pulling their carry-on luggage from the wreckage. Those escape slides are there to get a planeload of people out of, and away from, the aircraft as fast as possible, without their luggage. Jumping into a slide with carry-ons puts physical obstacles directly in the path of others. * When flying, always wear cotton clothing. (Synthetics melt to your skin.) * Always wear tennis shoes and do not remove them until the aircraft has reached cruising altitude (the pilot usually notifies the cabin and turns off the Fasten Seatbelt signs). Put your shoes back on before the plane begins its final descent. * Buy yourself smoke inhalation masks as they are only about $40. The airlines provide them to the crew but they don’t provide any for the passengers. * Sit close to the emergency exits and count how many seats between you and the exit row in case the aisle lighting does not light up. Don’t go to sleep until cruising altitude and when using an ipod or listening to music always have the volume such that you can hear the pilot at the same time. Lack of Response by Asiana Officials Another outrage noted in the aftermath of the Asiana crash was the failure of the airline to provide adequate information to the survivor’s families on its website. In the hours immediately following the crash, the “Fly Asiana.com” website only posted (in small print) an acknowledgement that the tragedy had occurred, but did not include any useful information such as emergency phone or consulting contact information. They also made no attempt to contact the victim’s families to provide updates or assurances about their loved ones. Before And After the Crash By Paul Hudson, President, FlyersRights.org The recent Asiana Boeing 777 crash landing at the San Francisco International Airport that killed two and injured about 180 is being investigated by US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Initial reports point to a pilot inexperienced in landing the Boeing 777 at the tricky San Francisco airport with perhaps poor English comprehension, coupled with the shut-down of an approach guidance system used at this airport. The Korean Asiana Airline has now had five accidents and, for a time, was reportedly banned from flying to the US due safety concerns. NTSB investigations normally take weeks or months to determine what went wrong. However, all airline passengers and especially those involved directly or indirectly need to know basic air crash safety facts and their rights. Air Crash Facts and Safety The chances of dying in an air crash are low (one in 22 million), but if you are in an air crash, about 50-50. Air crash accident statistics also generally exclude deaths from aviation terrorism which now exceed the accident death toll. Most passengers who die in crash landings survive the impact, but then die from smoke, fire or drowning. Federal safety rules require each new airliner design to pass an emergency evacuation test. The test requires evacuation of the maximum number of occupants within 90 seconds (the time it normally takes for fire and smoke to overcome passengers and make survival difficult) in low light conditions with half the exits disabled. In recent times, the FAA has failed to make the test realistic by allowing it to be conducted with practiced, young and fit employees or sometimes even with computer simulations. No actual testing with real live passengers has ever been required. Safety advocates such as the Aviation Consumer Action Project and the flight attendants unions have unsuccessfully sought realistic testing for emergency evacuation, so far to no avail. FlyersRights.org believes the FAA needs to conduct rulemaking to specify safe seat size and distance between seat rows. At present, only the aisle width leading to exits is regulated and even this rule is often waived. Smoke hoods are available for as little as $40 that protect against smoke inhalation, the most common cause of injury in airline crash landings. They are generally supplied to crew but not passengers. FlyersRights.org and other air safety advocates have recommended that these should be required for passengers as well as crew members. (See U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, Paul S. Hudson and Aviation Consumer Action Project v. FAA). Due to fees for checked baggage and frequent mishandling of baggage, most passengers now use carry-on luggage that is stored in overhead compartments with plastic doors. In crash landings or even rough ones, baggage comes raining down on passengers and can obstruct exit aisles. FlyersRights.org supports reinforcement or stronger overhead baggage with nonflammable material to reduce this safety risk. Legal Rights of Passengers After a Crash Airline passengers on international flights have compensation rights under a treaty known as the Montreal Convention of 1999, (view Paul Hudson’s article on the subject here). This provides for no fault compensation for bodily injury or death of up to about $149,000, usually without going to court. Beyond the no fault amount, negligence must be shown but compensation can be significantly higher in the United States courts. This normally requires litigation and takes several years. Lawyers who specialize in representing air crash victims generally charge 10% to up to one third of the total recovery in legal fees, plus the litigation expenses. International passenger compensation affected by excessive flight delay are also covered by Montreal Convention and eligible for up to $6,200 in damages for flight delays, unless the airline took all reasonable steps to avoid or mitigate the delay. Passengers on domestic flights have no delay compensation rights unless it is provided for in the airline contract of carriage, although most airlines will provide hotel, meal and local transportation vouchers for stranded passengers and must provide refunds if the flight is canceled. Airlines should provide alternate transportation either by air or ground to passengers’ destination for flights excessively delayed, but often this must be negotiated with the airline. FlyersRights’ Partners: Flybag ™ – the must-have TSA-compliant toiletry kit for the efficient traveler. Enter code: ISTILLFLY and you’ll receive one dollar off AND another dollar will be donated to FlyersRights! Our Napa Valley wine shop! You can’t miss with any of these great wines. Wear your FlyersRights armor to the airport. Kate Hanni, Founding Member Paul Hudson, FlyersRights president Founded by Kate Hanni in 2007, FlyersRights is funded completely through donations and our Education Fund is a 501(c)(3) charity, to which contributions are tax deductible. Thank you for your continued support!