Thursday, January 15, 2009

They Are There To Save Your Ass, Not Kiss It

I am sure the blogs are blowing up with this topic but I really wanted to comment about the plane crash in New York today. The pilot was did an amazing job landing that plane safely today. It was nothing short of a miracle that everyone survived and there were only a few minor injuries. 

Five years ago I was a flight attendant for Delta and I remember vividly the water rescue training that we had to take. No matter what, it is a flight attendant's responsibility to get everyone off the plane in 90 seconds. It is my understanding from watching the news tonight that all passengers and crews were out of the plane in 90 seconds today. Nice work to the entire crew!

In a water rescue the flight attendants in the back of the plane must direct everyone forward because you can't open the aft doors or the plane will sink much faster. I think that would be the scariest place to be in that situation because you have to resist the urge to open the door that is right next to you. You also need to shout at the folks at the emergency exit so they know how to open the windows and direct people onto the wing.

The first class flight attendant is responsible for opening both the front doors to allow people to get out on either side. When you open a door in an emergency a slide automatically inflates. That slide can be used as a raft in a water situation. There are also rafts in the overhead bins of airplanes (you know that big container that is always in the bin right above where you are sitting? that's probably a raft). The rafts are pretty well stocked with temporary supplies that come in handy while you are waiting for rescuers. They are tethered to the plane so if the plane starts to sink, as was the case today, there is a knife in one of the pockets of the raft to cut the rope. There is also a small first aid kit, a water purifier, some flares, and an air horn. The flight attendant is responsible for giving everyone an assignment to keep order on the raft if the wait for help takes longer than expected. Clearly, and thankfully, that wasn't the case today. It was around 11 degrees with the wind chill today in NYC so those folks probably couldn't last long out there without their coats.

The pilot and lead flight attendant are always the last two off the plane (no matter what type of emergency it is). They go through the entire cabin to make sure no one was left behind and then they exit the plane; first the flight attendant, then the pilot. They are going through the same emotions as everyone else. They have the same family members on their minds. And when it is all over and everyone is safe, they will be interviewed by the FAA and the head of their airline rather than NBC news. 

As I mentioned, I remember our water rescue training at Delta vividly. It was conducted indoors in a large pool that had an airplane attached to it. Everything was fully functional. During the simulation the doors opened and a raft opened up. We all loaded on the raft and performed various tasks. We even practiced getting back in the raft if it capsized. At the time I was thinking that we would never use this knowledge because no plane that hit the water would stay in one piece. Today I thank God that I was wrong.

There was an infant on the plane today and I just can't imagine being the mother with that child and having to get off without panicking while caring for a small child. It was so cold outside and I wonder if they had a coat on still. Probably not. The child must have been so confused about what was going on and the mother must have been terrified. I just can't possibly imagine what that must have been like. For any of them.

So next time you fly remember that handing out beverages and snacks is definitely part of the job but it isn't the main reason flight attendants are on the plane. Be nice to them! They are the ones that are going to save you if that becomes necessary. 

And trust me, they are fully capable of handling any situation.


Heather said...

That was also my daughters worry this morning when seeing the plane crash on the news. "How did the mommy jump in the water if she had a baby with her?" I can't imagine being that mom!

Lauren150772 said...

I really enjoyed reading what you wrote. It is so different to hear it all from the point of view of someone who has been responsible for others lives on an airplane. I am so thankful that we are watching stories about miracles and heroes on that flight and not tragedy. It is truly AMAZING!

Lauren150772 said...

Thank you for your last comments on my blog. I really appreciate everything!