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List of Tables
List of Figures
Chapter One - Introduction
Background of Problem
Statement of the Problem
Definitions of Terms
Assumptions and Limitations
Chapter Two – Literature Review
Why Passengers do not Listen?
The Importance of Being an Alert Passenger
Statistics on Airplane crashes: What Causes the Death of Some Passengers?
Results of Similar Research Studies
Statement of Hypothesis
Chapter Three – Research Methodology
Data Sources and Gathering Instruments
Treatment of Data and Procedures
Validity and Reliability of Data
Chapter Four - Results
Chapter Five - Findings
Recommendation for Policy Implementation
Engaging the Passengers
Appendix A — Configurations of the Aircraft Types Represented in the
NTSB 2000 Study 56
Appendix B — Excerpts from the Federal Aviation Regulations Pertaining
to Passengers’ Safety
Appendix C — Pre-Flight Safety Briefing Questionnaire
Appendix D — Survey Results
Table 1. Events that led to the Emergency Evacuations in the NTSB Study Cases
Table 2. The Mean Values of the Three Categories of Passengers under Study
Table 3. The Study population
Table 4. The Means of the Groups
Table 5. Levene's Test of Equality of Error Variances
Table 6. Tests of Between-Subjects Effects
Table 7. Estimated Marginal Means
Table 8. Scheffé Results
Table 9. Means for Groups in Homogeneous Subsets
Figure 1. Accident Summary by Injury and Damage from 1959 to 2007
Figure 2. 10-Year Accident Rates by Type of Operation
Figure 3. The Distribution of Fatal Accidents and Onboard Fatalities during the Different Phases of a Flight
Figure 4. Shows the frequency distribution and the mean values obtained by each group of participants
Background of the Problem
Traveling by air has its own special challenges and hazards. Passengers’ safety is a major topic of interest for the airlines since its inception. Although the information seems repetitious to some passengers and staff alike, the crucial fact remains that the information varies from one aircraft to another (i.e., proper exit procedures, location of safety devices, etc.). Accident investigations carried out by National Transportation Safety Board (e.g., NTSB, 2008) and studies (e.g., Boeing, 2008) have shown that the survival prospects of passengers have been jeopardized because of deficiencies and inaccuracies with safety information briefings (Civil Aviation Advisory Publication, 2004).
In addition, various studies (e.g., Federal Aviation Administration, 2003; Flight Safety Foundation, 2000; NTSB, 1985) provided insight into specific factors, such as crewmember training and passenger behavior that affect the overall safety issues; however, these studies had several limitations. Firstly, in many of these studies, researchers did not examine why passengers behaved in certain manners or researched the factors that influenced passengers’ behaviors during an emergency. Secondly, only safety issues were studied following serious accidents and not safety issues arising from the daily incidents, which may happen on daily basis in many commercial airplanes.
Accident experience has also demonstrated that apparent passenger indifference to safety information has led to improper action by some passengers during emergencies, that is, inattentiveness during safety briefings affects the ways in which passengers react during emergencies (NTSB, 2000). Unfortunately, most people falsely assume that the commercial aviation accident survivability rate is zero or very low (Boeing, 2008). Therefore, due to this rather false assumption, most passengers tend to underestimate the value of preflight safety briefings and undervalue the significance such information may serve in time of an accident. According to the Boeing Company’s statistics of all accidents for worldwide commercial jet fleets (1959 through 2007), 565 of the 1564 accidents worldwide were fatal; therefore, during these 46 years about 64 % (Figure 1) of all aircraft accidents were survivable (Boeing, 2008). This statistic provides evidence that airplane accidents are indeed survivable and passengers can expect to survive crashes more times than not.
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Figure 1. Accident Summary by Injury and Damage from 1959 to 2007:All Accidents — Worldwide commercial Jet Fleet . From Boeing’s 2007 Statistical Summary, July 2008, p.15 . Copyright 2008 by the Boeing Manufacturing Corporation .
Statement of the Problem
Aviation regulations require passengers to follow all safety-related directions given by any crew member. International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Annex 6 Standards require that oral safety briefings be given to passengers before all flights and that safety cards be available to all passengers (ICAO, 2006). Videotaped safety briefings may be used in lieu of oral safety briefings and demonstrations. Standard safety briefings are provided before and after take-off, when the seat belt sign is turned on due to turbulence and before landing.
The pre-flight safety briefing serves an important safety purpose for both passengers and crew. The required standard safety briefing consists of four elements: prior to takeoff, after takeoff, in-flight resulting from turbulence, and before passenger deplaning. An individual safety briefing must be provided to any passenger who is unable to receive information contained within the standard safety briefing. Briefings prepare passengers for an emergency by providing them with information about the location and operation of emergency equipment that they may have to operate. However, the problem is that the vast majority of passengers in commercial flights do not pay close attention to the pre-flight safety briefing due ambiguities associated with some terminology used by airlines. Hence, the ambiguity of the information might cause confusion to some passengers in an emergency during egress procedures, which in some cases (e.g., cabin fire requires at maximum 90 seconds or less time of evacuation) might considerably decrease survivability.
This research argues that well-briefed passengers will be better prepared in an emergency, thereby increasing survivability and lessening dependence on the crew to assist them. When passengers are carried on-board, a crew member must provide an oral briefing or by audio or audio-visual means. In spite of the fact that aviation safety can only be predicted, not guaranteed, this research was carried out to find out the best techniques and procedures which should be deployed by commercial airlines in order to increase the passengers’ attentiveness to the pre-flight safety briefing.
Definition of Terms
For purposes of this thesis report, the following terms were clarified and were operationally defined below:
Accident rates. Accident rate is a measure of accidents per million departures. Departures (or flight cycles) are used as the basis for calculating rates, since there is a stronger statistical correlation between accidents and departures than there is between accidents and flight hours, or between accidents and the number of airplanes in service, or between accidents and passenger miles or freight miles. Airplane departures data are continually updated and revised as new information and estimating processes become available. These form the baseline for the measure of accident rates and, as a consequence, rates may appear to vary between editions of this publication (the term was created by Boeing and does not have corresponding equivalence in ICAO, the NTSB, etc.; Boeing, 2008).
Airplane accident. An airplane accident is an occurrence associated with the operation of an airplane that takes place between the time any person boards the airplane with the intention of flight and such time as all such persons have disembarked, in which death or serious injury results from (a) being in the airplane, or (b) direct contact with the airplane or anything attached thereto, or (c) direct exposure to jet blast. It excludes (a) fatal and nonfatal injuries from natural causes; (b) fatal and nonfatal self-inflicted injuries or injuries inflicted by other persons; (c) fatal and nonfatal injuries of stowaways hiding outside the areas normally available to the passengers and crew; (d) nonfatal injuries resulting from atmospheric turbulence, maneuvering, loose objects, boarding, disembarking, evacuation, maintenance and servicing; and (e) nonfatal injuries to persons not aboard the airplane; or (a) the airplane sustains substantial damage; or (b) the airplane is missing or is completely inaccessible.
Airplane collision. Airplane collisions are events involving two or more airplanes and are counted as separate events, one for each airplane. For example, destruction of two airplanes in a collision is considered to be two separate accidents (the term was created by Boeing and does not have corresponding equivalent in ICAO, NTSB, etc.; Boeing, 2008).
Advisory Circulars. Advisory Circulars (AC) are intended to provide information and guidance regarding operational matters. An AC may describe an acceptable, but not the only means of demonstrating compliance with existing regulations. The ACs in and of themselves do not change, create any additional, authorize changes in, or permit deviations from regulatory requirements (Boeing, 2008).
Federal Aviation Administration. Federal Aviation Administration is an agency of the United States Department of Transportation with authority to regulate and oversee all aspects of civil aviation in the U.S. The Federal Aviation Act of 1958 created the group under the name Federal Aviation Agency, and adopted its current name in 1966 when it became a part of the United States Department of Transportation (FAA, 2003).
Fatal accident. Fatal accident is an accident that results in fatal injury (the term was created by Boeing and does not have corresponding equivalent in ICAO, the NTSB, etc.; Boeing, 2008).
Fatal injury. Fatal injury is any injury that results in death within 30 days of the accident (the term was created by Boeing and does not have corresponding equivalence in ICAO, the NTSB, etc.; Boeing, 2008).
Flight Safety Foundation. Flight Safety Foundation is an independent, nonprofit, international organization engaged in research, auditing, education, advocacy and publishing to improve aviation safety (FSF, 2000).
Hull loss. Hull loss is a status where the airplane is totally destroyed or damaged beyond economic repair. Hull loss also includes but is not limited to events in which (a) the airplane is missing; or (b) the search for the wreckage has been terminated without it being located; or (c) the airplane is completely inaccessible (the term was created by Boeing and does not have corresponding equivalent in ICAO, the NTSB, etc.; Boeing, 2008).
International Civil Aviation Organization. International Civil Aviation Organization is a United Nations Specialized Agency, and is the global forum for civil aviation. The ICAO works to achieve its vision of safe, secure and sustainable development of civil aviation through cooperation amongst its member States (ICAO, 2006).
Major accident. Major accident is an accident in which any of three conditions is met: (a) the airplane was destroyed; or (b) there were multiple fatalities; or (c) there was one fatality and the airplane was substantially damaged. This definition is consistent with the NTSB definition. It is also generally consistent with FSF, except that FSF confines multiple fatalities to occupants. International Civil Aviation Organization does not normally define the term major accident (Boeing, 2008).
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). National Transportation Safety Board is an independent Federal agency charged by Congress with investigating every civil aviation accident in the United States. National Transportation Safety Board opened its doors on April 1, 1967. Although independent, it relied on the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for funding and administrative support. In 1975, under the Independent Safety Board Act, all organizational ties to DOT were severed. National Transportation Safety Board is not part of DOT, or affiliated with any of its modal agencies (NTSB, 1985).
Serious injury. According to Boeing (2008), serious injury is an injury which is sustained by a person in an accident and which (a) requires hospitalization for more than 48 hours, commencing within seven days from the date the injury was received; or (b) results in a fracture of any bone (except simple fractures of fingers, toes or nose); or (c) involves lacerations which cause severe hemorrhage, nerve, muscle or tendon damage; or (d) involves injury to any internal organ; or (e) involves second or third degree burns, or any burns affecting more than 5% of the body surface; or (f) involves verified exposure to infectious substances or injurious radiation. This is consistent with the ICAO definition. It is also consistent with NTSB’s definition except for the last bullet, which is not included in NTSB definition (Boeing, 2008).
Substantial damage. Substantial damage or failure is the damage which adversely affects the structural strength, performance, or flight characteristics of the airplane, and which would normally require major repair or replacement of the affected component. Substantial damage is not considered to be (a) engine failure or damage limited to an engine, (b) damage to wheels if only one engine fails or is damaged, (c) damage to tires (d) bent fairings or cowlings, (e) damage to flaps, (f) dents in the skin, (g) damage to engine accessories, (h) small puncture holes in the skin, (i) damage to brakes, and (j) damage to wingtips (Boeing, 2008).
Assumptions and Limitations
This study was carried out without involving the airlines, which could have enabled to know more about their safety culture, staff risks perception of aviation safety hazards, willingness of staff to report safety hazards, action taken on identified safety hazards, and staff comments about safety management within the airline. In addition, this study was dependent on collaboration from some commercial airlines in the form of sending the questionnaires to their frequent fliers or providing the researcher the lists. E-mails were sent to their commercial departments in order to seek their assistance in recruiting the participants for this study, that is, their customers and frequent fliers.
Due to the fact that this was a student-conducted research, recruiting participants certainly posed difficulties. The collaboration with commercial airlines was not granted, and hence, the researcher resorted to using a sample of colleagues, relatives and neighbors as participants for this study. This study was limited to self-collected data by participants as well as by facts gathered through research means. No commercial airlines or their representatives contributed first-hand to any data collected in this research. By having commercial airlines collaborate, future researchers would have the advantage of attaining crucial information such as safety culture.
Participants were fully briefed in advance via e-mails, that they were being interviewed as passengers who, based on their own feedback and experience contributed to the creation of safety knowledge in the aviation industry. Consequently, participants might have acted differently (i.e., the Hawthorn Effect). Another limitation was that the accuracy of the data collected was highly dependent on participants’ viewpoints and degree of truth given in their responses.
Studies about aircraft accidents have demonstrated for the most part that passengers’ lack of knowledge of safety information has led some passengers to take improper and incorrect actions during emergencies (Figure 2). It is from such studies that the scope of this research was inspired, bringing to the forefront the crucial and often underestimated issue of safety briefings given on aircraft. National Transportation Safety Board has always focused on maladaptive passenger behavior in emergencies as a result of (a) inappropriate or inaccurate information having been given to passengers, (b) passenger indifference to safety information, (c) the apparent belief by some passengers that they are somehow immune to injury, and (d) the rather universally held fatalistic belief that airplane accidents are not survivable and that passengers have no influence on whether they will survive an accident (NTSB, 1985).
illustration not visible in this excerpt
Figure 2. Ten-year Accident Rates by Type of Operation. The X-axis indicates the total number of departures by millions while the Y-axis shows the 10-year accident rates/million departures. From Boeing’s 2007 Statistical Summary, July 2008, p.18 . Copyright 2008 by the Boeing Manufacturing Corporation .
The same report indicated that in an airplane environment (Figure 3) passengers were passive participants who, for the most part, were unaware of, why the safety information they were given was important (FSF, 2000). As accident investigations have pointed out, the pre takeoff briefing is often the only safety information air travelers will receive in the event of an accident.
illustration not visible in this excerpt
Figure 3. Fatal Accidents and Onboard Fatalities by Phase of Flight: Worldwide Commercial Jet Fleet (1998-2007). The figure shows the distribution of fatal accidents and onboard fatalities during the different phases of a flight; X axis representing the different phases of a flight and Y1andY2 axes representing the fatal accidents and the onboard fatalities. It is noticeable that the most fatal accidents with onboard fatalities occur during climb and descent. From Boeing’s 2007 Statistical Summary, July 2008, p.20. Copyright 2008 by the Boeing Manufacturing Corporation .
Why Passengers do not Listen?
Some reasons that may aid in explaining passengers’ lack of attentiveness to safety briefings may be due to the ambiguities associated with some terminology used by airlines. Some phrases used to instruct passengers on how to use certain devices may be too complicated for some passengers to understand. Hence, the ambiguity of the information may cause confusion to some passengers as to which exit they are to take in case of an emergency, given that the normal safety briefing protocol merely informs passengers as to the number of exits on the plane and which direction they should head to in case of an emergency. Passengers’ confusion to some of the instructions given perhaps elevates their chances of not paying close attention to safety procedures.
The Importance of Being an Alert Passenger
Federal Aviation Administration Advisory Circular (AC) 121- 24C, Passenger Safety Information Briefing and Briefing Cards states
An alert, knowledgeable person has a much better chance of surviving any life-or injury-threatening situation that could occur during passenger-carrying operations in civil aviation. Therefore, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires a passenger information system for U.S. air carriers and commercial operators that includes both oral briefings and briefing cards. Every airline passenger should be motivated to focus on the safety information in the passenger briefing; however, motivating people, even when their own personal safety is involved, is not easy. One way to increase passenger motivation is to make the safety information briefings and cards as interesting and attractive as possible. (FAA, 2003)
A common finding of studies about passenger-education methods (FAA, 2003; FSF, 2000; NTSB, 1985) revealed that the results of passengers’ lack of knowledge of operating certain in-flight equipment; for example, oxygen masks or passengers’ lack of knowledge about which exit doors to take could result in an overwhelming workload for the cabin crew in the case of an emergency (FSF, 2000). Because it seems almost impossible to predict passengers’ behaviors during an emergency, it is both vital and ethical for airlines to take measures in order to provide the best possible pre-departure safety briefings for their passengers.
While the literature on airline safety is broad, a major contribution to airline safety research includes the work of NTSB (NTSB, 2000). National Transportation Safety Board has been concerned about the safety of commercial airplanes in the event of an emergency. Several accidents investigated by NTSB in the last decade that involved emergency evacuations, prompted NTSB to conduct a study on the evacuation of commercial airplanes. The study described in this report was the first prospective study of emergency evacuation of commercial airplanes. For this study, NTSB investigated 46 evacuations that occurred between September 1997 and June 1999 and involved 2,651 passengers. Eighteen different aircraft types were represented in the study. Based on information collected from the passengers, the flight attendants, the flight crews, the air carriers, and the aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) units, NTSB examined the following safety issues in the study: (a) certification issues related to airplane evacuation, (b) the effectiveness of evacuation equipment, (c) the adequacy of air carrier and ARFF guidance and procedures related to evacuations, and (d) communication issues related to evacuations.
The study also compiled some general statistics on evacuations, including the number of evacuations and the types and number of passenger injuries incurred during evacuations. As a result of the study, NTSB issued 20 safety recommendations and reiterated three safety recommendations to FAA.
Past research and studies on airplane evacuations have provided insight to specific factors, such as crewmember training and passenger behavior that affect the outcome of evacuations; however, these studies had several limitations. Firstly, in many of these studies, researchers did not examine successful evacuations; therefore, they were not always able to discuss what equipment and procedures worked well during evacuations. Secondly, only evacuations following serious accidents were examined and not evacuations arising from minor incidents. As a result, little is known about incident-related evacuations, which can provide insight into how successful evacuations can be performed and which can also identify safety deficiencies before serious accidents occur. Thirdly, each study was a retrospective analysis of accident evacuations. This approach limited the researchers to information collected during the original investigation rather than collecting consistent information on a set of evacuations. Fourthly, previous research on evacuations has not examined some of the most basic questions about how often commercial airplanes are evacuated, how many people are injured during evacuations, and how these injuries occur.
Statistics on Airplane Crashes: What Causes the Death of Some Passengers?
On February 1, 1991, a USAir Boeing 737 and a Skywest Metroliner collided on the runway at Los Angeles International Airport. All passengers on the Skywest plane died on impact. None of the passengers on the 737 died on impact, but 19 passengers died from smoke inhalation and one died from thermal injuries. Of the 19 smoke-inhalation fatalities, 10 died in a queue to use the right overwing exit. National Transportation Safety Board discovered that two factors caused exit delays by several seconds were passengers’ delay in opening the exit and a scuffle between two passengers (NTSB, 2000).
On November 19, 1996, United Express flight 5925, a Beechcraft 1900C, collided with a King Air at the airport in Quincy, Illinois, seconds after landing. All 12 persons aboard the United Express flight and the two pilots on the King Air died from the effects of smoke and fumes from the post-crash fire even though they survived the impact. A pilot employed by the airport’s fixed-base operator and a Beech 1900C-qualified United Express pilot who have been waiting for the flight to arrive were the first persons to reach the accident scene. These persons ran to the forward left side of the commuter’s fuselage where the captain was asking them to get the door open. Both pilots attempted to open the forward airstair door but were unsuccessful. National Transportation Safety Board determined that the instructions for operating the door were inadequate for an emergency situation (NTSB, 2000).
The two accidents described above highlight just a few of the safety issues related to aircraft passengers’ safety. In addition to accident investigations, studies conducted by NTSB, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB), FAA, and independent researchers have examined specific factors that affect the successful evacuation of commercial airplanes.
Results of Similar Research Studies
National Transportation Safety Board completed a special investigation report on flight attendant training in 1992. That investigation found that there was a lack of guidance to FAA inspectors regarding oversight of training, particularly flight attendant recurrent training. Some flight attendants were not proficient in their knowledge of emergency equipment and procedures, a situation compounded by a fact that most air carriers did not have standard locations for emergency equipment and most carriers did not limit the number of airplane types for which flight attendants were qualified. Another finding from the 1992 report that is particularly relevant to the current study was that many air carriers did not perform evacuation drills during recurrent training, and they were not required to conduct such training. As a result of that special investigation, several recommendations were issued to the FAA that were intended to improve flight attendant training and performance during emergency situations.
In 1995, TSB of Canada issued a study of air carrier evacuations that involved Canadian-registered airplanes or evacuations of foreign registered airplanes that occurred in Canada. The TSB conducted a post accident examination of 21 evacuation events that had occurred between 1978 and 1991. As a result of the study, the TSB recommended protective breathing equipment for cabin crews, a reevaluation of escape slides, a review of the adequacy of public address systems, implementation of joint crew training, and detailed briefings to prepare passengers for unplanned emergencies (TSB, 1995).
Beginning in 1987, as a result of a 737 fire in Manchester, England, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of the United Kingdom commissioned Cranfield University to conduct a number of experimental research studies on issues of cabin safety.
In 1989, a study of passenger behavior in airplane emergencies examined the influences of cabin configuration on the rate at which passengers could evacuate the airplane. Questionnaires were developed and mailed by NTSB to flight crews, flight attendants, ARFF units, and passengers who were involved in the 30 evacuations that received a detailed investigation. The crewmembers and passengers were asked what suggestions they would make to improve evacuations.
Questionnaires sent to flight crews consisted of questions regarding general information about the evacuation, communication, procedures, environment, and equipment. Of 61 questionnaires mailed to flight crewmembers, 33 were returned to NTSB. The 33 responses were from pilots who represented 20 of the 30 evacuations in the study that received detailed investigations. Fifteen of the 20 respondents were the pilots-in-command at the time of the evacuation. For all but one of the respondents, this was their first evacuation of a commercial passenger aircraft.
Questionnaires sent to flight attendants consisted of questions regarding general information about the evacuation, personal injuries sustained, preflight safety briefing, communication, emergency exits, environment, passenger behavior, and training. Of 64 surveys mailed to flight attendants, 36 were returned to NTSB. This sample represented 18 of the 30 evacuations that received detailed investigations. Two of the 36 respondents reported being in a prior evacuation incidents.
Questionnaires sent to passengers consisted of questions regarding the preflight safety briefing, emergency exits, carry-on baggage, evacuation slides, passenger behavior, seat belts, communication, injury, postevacuation events, and personal information. Of 1,043 questionnaires mailed to passengers, 457 (44 %) were returned to NTSB. These passengers were from 18 of the 30 evacuations that received detailed investigations. Only 17 of the 457 passenger respondents indicated being involved in a prior evacuation. The average age of passengers who responded to NTSB’s questionnaire was 43 years old. Forty-five percent of these passengers were female. The passengers averaged 5 feet and 7.5 inches in height and weighed an average of 165 pounds. Passengers reported on the injuries they sustained during their evacuations. No attempt was made to confirm each passenger’s self-assessment. There appeared to be no relationship between age and the injury incurred since 34% of the respondents older than the median age of 43 reported injuries whereas 35% younger than the median reported injuries. Reports of injuries were similar (39%) for passengers older than 60 years.
Despite the lack of differences with regard to injury, passengers who were older than 43 had different perceptions of how their physical abilities affected their evacuation. Older passengers were more likely to disagree with statements that their physical size or condition assisted their evacuation. Further, they tended to disagree with statements that indicated their age assisted them.
Overall, older passengers were no more likely to sustain an injury, but they perceived their condition and age to hinder their evacuation. Although age apparently had no effect on injuries, the injury rate for females was greater than the injury rate for males. Thirty-eight percent (64) of the female respondents reported injuries whereas 27% (54) of the male respondents reported injuries. Yet, perceptions of how physical size, condition, and age affected their evacuation were the same for males and females.
National Transportation Safety Board surveyed passengers involved in the study evacuations on the competitive behaviors they exhibited or observed during evacuations to gain insight on how often passengers exhibit these behaviors. Passengers were asked to rate how much they agreed with the statement that passengers were cooperative during the evacuation. Seventy-five percent (331) of the passengers who responded to the statement agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, 13% (56) disagreed or strongly disagreed, and 12% (53) were neutral. The majority (62%, or 33) of the 56 passengers who indicated uncooperative behavior were involved in 3 evacuations cases. These cases included evacuations involving an auxiliary power unit (APU) torching, an engine fire, and an airplane that overran the runway and impacted a grass embankment (Table 1).
Table 1 . Events that led to the emergency evacuations in the 46 NTSB study cases. The most frequent event leading to an evacuation was an engine fire, accounting for 18 (39%) of the 46 evacuations included in the study cases; 15 involved an actual engine fire, and 3 involved a suspected but not actual fire. Eight of the 46 evacuations resulted from indications of fire in the cargo hold; none of these eight events, which occurred on regional airplanes, involved the presence of an actual fire. Gear failure and smoke in the cabin led to 4 evacuations each (NTSB, 2000).
illustration not visible in this excerpt
Note: As described in Boeing’s Airliner magazine (April/June 1992), The APU provides both electrical power and bleed air for the air conditioning system and main engine starting. A torching start may result from excess fuel accumulation in the APU combustor assembly and exhaust duct. The torching start has a characteristic „orange flash’. Copyrights 2000 by National Transportation Safety Board.
Although these three cases included flames or substantial airplane damage, the severity of an event is not necessarily indicative of uncooperative behaviors. In the most serious accident in the study, only 6% of the passengers indicated disagreement with the statement that passengers were cooperative.
The competitive behaviors passengers reported seeing included pushing, climbing seats, and disputes among passengers. These behaviors were reported in many of the study cases, but not all. Overall, 12.1% (53) of the responding passengers reported that they climbed over seats whereas 20.4% (90) observed someone climbing seats. Many (80%, or 42) of the passengers who indicated that they climbed over seats, the most serious accident in the study and which involved several broken seats. Of all the passengers who responded to the questionnaire, 29% (129) reported seeing passengers pushing, 18.7% (83) indicated actually being pushed, and 5.6% (25) indicated pushing another passenger. Slightly more than 10% (46) of the responding passengers reported seeing passengers in disputes with other passengers.
National Transportation Safety Board asked passengers and flight attendants in the 30 cases receiving detailed investigations to indicate from a list what hindered the evacuation. Five passengers and one flight attendant mentioned bulkheads, 39 passengers and one flight attendant mentioned broken interiors, 16 passengers mentioned overhead bins, and 16 passengers mentioned the seatback in front of them. In the 28 other cases for which questionnaires were distributed, one flight attendant mentioned that her seat obstructed the evacuation, and two other flight attendants reported galley items obstructing passenger evacuation. Eleven passengers indicated that the seatback in front of them slowed their movement, six passengers mentioned overhead bins, five passengers mentioned the bulkhead, and one passenger mentioned the aisle width.
In general, passengers in NTSB’s study cases were able to access airplane exits without difficulty, except for the Little Rock, Arkansas, accident that occurred on June 1, 1999, in which interior cabin furnishings became dislodged and were obstacles to some passengers’ access to exits.
National Transportation Safety Board also assessed the effectiveness of the emergency lighting systems in the study cases by reviewing crew statements from returned questionnaires. Of the 36 flight attendants who responded, there were only two reports of failed lights, both from flight attendants in the Little Rock accident. Further, 5 flight crew members and 10 flight attendants reported that emergency lighting systems assisted evacuations in which visibility was restricted. All of these crewmembers were involved in five night evacuations. National Transportation Safety Board concluded that emergency lighting systems functioned as intended in the 30 evacuations cases investigated in detail. The major findings of NTSB study were the following:
1. In the 46 study cases, 92% (2,614) of the 2,846 occupants on board were uninjured, 6% (170) sustained minor injuries, and 2% (62) sustained serious injuries.
2. Federal Aviation Administration does not evaluate the emergency evacuation capabilities of transport-category airplanes with fewer than 44 passenger seats or the emergency evacuation capabilities of air carriers operating commuter-category and transport-category airplanes with fewer than 44 passenger seats. In the interest of providing one level of safety, all passenger-carrying commercial airplanes and air carriers should be required to demonstrate emergency evacuation capabilities.
3. Adequate research has not been conducted to determine the appropriate exit row width on commercial airplanes.
4. In general, passengers in NTSB’s study cases were able to access airplane exits without difficulty, except for the Little Rock, Arkansas, accident that occurred on June 1, 1999, in which interior cabin furnishings became dislodged and were obstacles to some passengers’ access to exits.
5. Emergency lighting systems functioned as intended in the 30 evacuation cases investigated in detail.
6. In 43 of the 46 evacuation cases in NTSB’s study, floor level exit doors were opened without difficulty.
7. Passengers continue to have problems opening overwing exits and stowing the hatch. The manner in which the exit is opened and the hatch is stowed is not intuitively obvious to passengers nor is it easily depicted graphically.
8. Most passengers seated in exit rows do not read the safety information provided to assist them in understanding the tasks they may need to perform in the event of an emergency evacuation, and they do not receive personal briefings from flight attendants even though personal briefings can aid passengers in their understanding of the tasks that they may be called upon to perform.
9. On some Fokker airplanes, the aft flight attendant is seated too far from the overwing exits, the assigned primary exits, to provide immediate assistance to passengers who attempt to evacuate through the exits.
10. Overall, in 37% (7 of 19) of the evacuations with slide deployments in National Transportation Safety Board’s study cases, there were problems with at least one slide.
A slide problem in 37% of the evacuations in which slides were deployed is unacceptable for a safety system.
11. The majority of serious evacuation-related injuries in National Transportation Safety Board’s study cases, excluding the Little Rock, Arkansas, accident of June 1, 1999 occurred at airplane door and overwing exits without slides.
12. Pilots are not receiving consistent guidance, particularly in flight operations and safety manuals, on when to evacuate an airplane.
13. Passengers benefited from precautionary safety briefings just prior to emergency occurrences.
14. Limiting exit use during evacuations in National Transportation Safety Board’s study was not in accordance with the respective air carrier’s existing evacuation procedures. At a minimum, all available floor level exits that are not blocked by a hazard should be used during an evacuation.
15. Evacuations involving slide use could be delayed if passengers sit at exits before boarding a slide or if crew commands do not direct passengers how to get onto a slide.
16. Without hands-on training specific to the airplane types that frequent their airports, aircraft rescue and firefighting personnel may be hindered in their ability to quickly and efficiently assist during evacuations.
17. Communication and coordination problems continue to exist between flight crews and flight attendants during airplane evacuations. Joint exercises for flight crews and flight attendants on evacuation have proven effective in resolving these problems.
18. Despite efforts and various techniques over the years to improve passenger attention to safety briefings, a large percentage of passengers continue to ignore preflight safety briefings. In addition, despite guidance in the form of Federal Aviation Administration advisory circulars, many air carrier safety briefing cards do not clearly communicate safety information to passengers.
19. Passengers’ efforts to evacuate an airplane with their carry-on baggage continue to pose a problem for flight attendants and are a serious risk to a successful evacuation of an airplane. Techniques on how to handle passengers who do not listen to flight attendants’ instructions need to be addressed.
20. Unwarranted evacuations following Boeing 727 auxiliary power unit (APU) torching continue to exist despite past efforts by FAA to address this issue.
21. Evacuations continue to occur that are hampered by inefficient communication.
Current evacuation communication would be significantly enhanced by the installation of independently powered evacuation alarms on all newly manufactured transport-category airplanes. As a result of this safety study, NTSB made the following major safety recommendations to FAA:
1. Require air carriers to provide all passengers seated in exit rows in which a qualified crewmember is not seated a preflight personal briefing on what to do in the event the exit may be needed.
2. Require the aft flight attendants on Fokker 28 and Fokker 100 airplanes to be seated adjacent to the overwing exits, their assigned primary exits.
3. Require flight operations manuals and safety manuals to include on abnormal and emergency procedures checklists, a checklist item that directs flight crews to initiate or consider emergency evacuation in all emergencies that could reasonably require an airplane evacuation (e.g., a cabin fire or an engine fire).
4. Review air carriers’ procedures to ensure that for those situations in which crews anticipate an eventual evacuation, adequate guidance is given both to pilots and flight attendants on providing passengers with precautionary safety briefings.
5. Conduct research and explore creative and effective methods that use state-of-the-art technology to convey safety information to passengers. The presented information
should include a demonstration of all emergency evacuation procedures, such as how to open the emergency exits and exit the aircraft, including how to use the slides.
6. Require minimum comprehension testing for safety briefing cards.
7. Develop advisory material to address ways to minimize the problems associated with carry-on luggage during evacuations.
8. Require air carriers that operate Boeing 727s to include in the auxiliary power unit (APU) procedures instructions that when passengers are on board, the flight crew will make a public address announcement about APU starts immediately prior to starting the APU.
Statement of the Hypothesis
Since most studies (FAA, 2003; FSF, 2000; NTSB, 2000; NTSB, 1985) showed that most passengers lack attentiveness to pre-flight safety briefings, airlines must consider more innovative ways to motivate their passengers to pay attention to such briefings. Many studies (FAA, 2003; FSF, 2000; NTSB, 2000; NTSB, 1985) have shown that the overall effectiveness of the current flight safety techniques could use much improvement.
In addition, individual passengers have a large (typically negative) impact on the conduct of emergency evacuations, resulting from their general naiveté regarding aircraft emergencies and ignorance of proper procedures needed to cope with such circumstances (CAAP, 2004). Hence, the perceived relevance of safety information is a major key to passenger attitudes. Based on the premise that passengers’ safety is the key goal of all airlines alike, it is vital that safety briefings be delivered in the most effective modes.
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