Tokyo crash raises questions about whether plane evacuation standards are realistic

The recent crash between a Japan Airlines passenger jet and a Japanese coast guard plane in Tokyo has raised questions about the standards used to evaluate whether aircraft can be safely evacuated during emergencies. Despite meeting certification requirements and passing tests, it took about 18 minutes to evacuate Japan Airlines Flight 516, an Airbus A350-900, whereas the standard requirement is that the plane should be evacuated within 90 seconds, even with half of its emergency exits blocked.

In the Tokyo crash, all 379 passengers and crew members aboard the JAL flight managed to escape safely, with only a dozen minor injuries reported. The flight attendants on board have been widely credited with keeping passengers calm and ensuring an orderly evacuation. The modern design of the aircraft also played a role in slowing the spread of the initial fire, giving passengers more time to escape.

However, the significant discrepancy between the theoretically achievable 90-second window and the actual evacuation time in Tokyo has raised concerns about the validity of the current certification tests. It has brought into question whether these tests accurately reflect real-world conditions and whether redesigning the tests would have unintended consequences.

In response to these concerns, legislation was introduced in the U.S. by Senators Tammy Duckworth and Tammy Baldwin. The legislation would require the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to test evacuation times using a more realistic setting. Duckworth, a former U.S. Army helicopter pilot who lost both legs during combat in Iraq, believes that the current tests do not accurately simulate real-world conditions.

The proposed legislation aims to address the discrepancy between the certification tests and actual evacuation times. It seeks to establish an emergency evacuation standard that takes into account real-life conditions such as the presence of carry-on bags, children, seniors, and passengers with disabilities. The goal is to make flying as safe as possible by providing a more realistic standard for pilots, flight attendants, and ground rescue crews to train to.

The crash in Tokyo has further emphasized the need to reassess the 90-second rule and establish a more practical standard. Duckworth believes that the flying public deserves a standard that considers real-life conditions and ensures the safety of all passengers. The legislation would not necessarily require airlines to make immediate changes if aircraft fail the 90-second test under the new standards. Instead, it would prompt a reevaluation of the standard itself.

The investigation into the cause of the Japan crash is still ongoing, including an examination of the evacuation process. While the actual evacuation time may have exceeded the standard requirement, it is evident that a combination of factors prevented a tragedy from being significantly worse.

In conclusion, the crash in Tokyo has brought to light the need for a reevaluation of the standards used to evaluate aircraft evacuation. The proposed legislation in the U.S. seeks to establish a more realistic standard that takes into account real-world conditions. By doing so, it aims to improve the safety of air travel and provide a more accurate benchmark for training pilots, flight attendants, and ground rescue crews.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *