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Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Plane Crash

Wow. Another plane crash with no loss of life. This makes two in less than a month. The first was in Denver when Continental aborted takeoff and veered off the runway. Still no cause on that one. And now today, the US Airways plane landing in the Hudson River. The mayor of NYC called it a miracle and I would agree. There were so many factors that could have gone wrong and didn't.

During Airport Days one year, retired Captain Al Haynes was brought in to speak and I went out to hear him. I don't know if y'all remember United 232, but there was a made for TV movie made about the rescue called Crash Landing: The Rescue of Flight 232 that wasn't bad. Anyway, one of the things Captain Haynes said was that the reason so many people survived the crash on his plane was that a lot of things went right for them on the ground. (I found a transcript of a speech he gave and it's close to what I remember hearing.)

He talked about all the luck they had that day. Like the fact that they were over Iowa, which had a lot of flat ground that they could try to bring the plane down on if they had to and not over the ocean or the Rocky Mountains. They had good weather, without turbulence. That it happened during daylight hours let them have better visibility of the runways and airport. It also happened to be shift change time at the hospitals, so with the advance warning, they had a lot of medical personnel on hand. Sioux City, Iowa also had the regional burn unit and trauma unit for the area and those are the two biggest issues usually in a plane crash. The other plus was that it was the one day of the month that the Air National Guard was at the airport.

I'm thinking that the US Air plane had a similar series of lucky incidents today.

The other thing Captain Haynes said that has stuck with me since I heard him speak was that whenever he flew, he listened to the safety demo that the flight attendants gave. He said he always pulled his card out of the seat pocket and followed along. I started doing that after I heard that. Ecen if you fly a lot, the configurations of the airplanes change. If you fly on a Northwest Airlines 757, we have something like 5 or 6 configurations and what obstacles you'll have between you and an exit will be different depending on which airplane you get.

I also always locate the two closest exits. If one exit is blocked by fire, I want to know where to go. Since I work for an airline, I know all the thought and attention there is on making our planes safe. If my part as a passenger means paying attention for 3 minutes at the beginning of the flight, I can do that.