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Putting laptops above their lives?

Passengers run away as an Emirates airline flight from India to Dubai crash-lands at the airport in Dubai on Wednesday.

Passengers run away as an Emirates airline flight from India to Dubai crash-lands at the airport in Dubai on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: PTI

The scramble by some passengers caught in the Dubai crash-landing to retrieve personal stuff raises many questions

Amateur video recordings made by some passengers who were in Emirates Flight EK 521 that crash-landed on the tarmac of the Dubai International Airport on August 3 are all over the Internet. But more than those of the burning plane engulfed by billowing smoke, what was striking was one video shot by a passenger. He or she captured the mayhem inside the cabin after the belly-landing, of people screaming and moving around instead of heading for the six emergency exits as the crew-members were telling them to do.

But what made jaws drop was the sight of some passengers trying to retrieve luggage from overhead bins inside an aircraft on fire that was fast filling with smoke. Cabin crew could be heard desperately shouting, “Jump, leave your baggage behind!” And then you hear a man’s voice, “laptop, laptop”. A surreal scenario.

Frightening prospect

All credit goes to the crew for evacuating an aircraft with nearly 300 passengers within 90 seconds in spite of having to handle many people who hindered emergency procedures by waiting to grab their baggage. If they had stayed for even a few more minutes...it is frightening to contemplate the tragedy.

What is it with people generally flouting safety regulations on an airplane, with risk to life — their own and that of others? I have noticed during flights that the attendants have to remind people to keep their seats in an upright position during landing and take-off, in spite of the announcement made initially. I have obeyed this rule unquestioningly, but never knew the logic until I read the reason on the wrapper of a sandwich I ate on a flight.

When the seat is upright, it is in a locked position. When pushed back, it’s not locked. During a crash-landing an unlocked seat takes more force during impact, and the thrusting forward of the seat can cause injury. This procedure is followed to minimise injuries during a crash and to clear space for a quick exit.

A reclined seat would also hamper the ability to brace effectively for both the passenger and the person seated behind. The standard brace position used is to bend down and grab your ankles, protecting your head in the process.

Risky behaviour

Some people do not switch off mobile phones during a flight even though it could possibly jeopardise communication signals of the aircraft. Often I have also watched with fascination and amusement how the minute the aircraft lands, even as the crew requests people to remain seated, with the seat belt sign still on, folks immediately shoot up from their seats, start opening the overhead bins and even jockeying for position in the aisle, while the plane is still taxiing. The level of risk such behaviour holds is considerable.

Another point the cabin crew has to keep on repeating flight after flight relates to the need to keep window shades open during take-off and landing. There is a good reason for this too. In case of an emergency the crew need to decide which side of the aircraft is safe to use for evacuation procedures. Leaving the window shade up allows them to make a quick decision: if one side is on fire, you exit through the other side!

For a quick exit

Airlines are certified to make a full exit in 90 seconds, and there will be hardly any time during a crisis to go around the cabin to get people to open window shades to check the situation outside.

And the lights are dimmed at night during take-off and landing for passengers to acclimatise themselves to the conditions outside if they have to be evacuated quickly. And the safety video suggests putting on the oxygen mask yourself before helping co-passengers or children. If the flight is at 20,000 ft. or above, in 20 to 60 seconds one could get unconscious due to hypoxia. Then we will not be able to help anyone at all!

Paying serious attention to safety regulations set down by airlines will save lives: our safety is in our own hands.

beena63@gmail.com

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 8:07:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/Putting-laptops-above-their-lives/article14558801.ece

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