Editorials

July 7, 2013

Asiana 214: Another Lesson in Aviation Safety Coming Right Up

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Written by: David J. Williams
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There is an old saying that FAA regulations “are written in blood”.  This is a disturbing statement, but true.  And because of it, aviation today is an exceptionally safe mode of transportation.

Errors made in aircraft design, production, maintenance, as well as operations by pilots, companies and air traffic control that result in accidents are evaluated by the NTSB, the FAA, and employee unions.  The goal of all of these groups is to stop further accidents.  As noble as that goal is, airplanes will continue to crash.

When an aircraft crashes and the the wreckage comes to rest, it is now the job of the cabin crew to evacuate the survivors.  The value of a competent cabin crew is essential.  They must have the training, the authority, and the will to rapidly evacuate the aircraft.

The cabin crew of Asiana Flight 214 was able to get all but two out of the aircraft.  Had they delayed the evacuation, there likely would have been more deaths and injuries from the fire.  The competence of the Asiana cabin crew is in part due to the lessons we have learned from the past.

One of the biggest advances in cabin safety came after an FAA test of what was hoped to be a fire resistant fuel.  The test was a complete failure, however the unexpected data from the cabin made major changes to aircraft design and flight attendant training.  That data showed the post-impact survivability quickly diminished as the cabin filled with  lethal smoke.  Changes were made to aircraft interior materials and the focus of rapidly evacuating passengers was incorporated into airline training programs.

Other notable accidents that changed cabin safety were:

Saudi Arabian Airlines Flight 163 for a failure in crew resource management.

Tower Air Flight 41 for failures in maintenance related to cabin safety and the training of the cabin crew.

TWA Flight 843 for the successful evacuation of everyone onboard; in this case what went right.

The cabin crew of Asiana 214 was likely thinking of deplaning and the layover in San Francisco.  In an instant, they assumed their primary role of cabin safety.  The training they received from the lessons we have learned enabled them to save the lives of 99% of the people on board.

David Williams, a former airline pilot currently involved in aviation safety, is a NYCAviation writer.



About the Author

David J. Williams
David Williams, an aviation safety expert and aviation historian, living in New York City.




 
 

 

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  • douginsd

    “The cabin crew of Asiana Flight 214 was able to get all but two out of the aircraft.”

    Actually, the other two were ejected during the accident, so they got everyone that was still in the airplane out.

    • MrJest

      Precisely; and several of them severely injured and/or so terrified they could not evacuate without help – the crew did a PERFECT job. Ironically, one of the two ejected girls may well have been killed by being run over by a responding fire engine (although getting ejected from a vehicle doing 100 MPH is not likely survivable in any event).

  • My wife is a flight attendant and this is exactly why they go through some fairly rigorous training every year. Their job #1 is safety, not service. We tend to forget this when we do not get our drinks fast enough…

  • LongmuirG

    Only 2 fatalities. Great! But Asiana 214 may still go down in the books as a “near miss” event from which lessons should be learned.
    According to some press reports, some of the people escaping from the crashed plane took carry-on bags with them down the evacuation slides — even wheelie bags. If those reports turn out to be true, then we have a problem. A percentage of passengers are so selfish & foolish that they would put other people’s lives at risk in a life-&-death situation by wasting time with their carry-on bags. That behavior could easily have left people trapped in the burning plane, or destroyed the evacuation slides.
    If those reports are true, then action is required as a result of this crash. At a minimum, attaching criminal penalties to that kind of selfish behavior. Maybe in the ultimate minimizing carry-on baggage for all passengers. As so often, a minority make flying more difficult for the rest of us.

    • Alan

      The other interpretation of these reports: Bags fell out of overhead bins into aisles and laps, and rather than delaying the evac to stow these bags somewhere else the evacuees just took them along…i.e. NOT wasting time. I don’t think we know which interpretation applies to which passengers, yet.

  • Teacher_in_Tejas

    And they are all beautiful too. I enjoy flying on Asiana! 🙂

  • Carey J

    Idjit pilot flies plane into ground – only 2 people killed. Next airline trip I take, I wanna go on a 777.