Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Questions and Answers on Airline Safety


WASHINGTON (AP) - There always will be dangers that accompany flying, but passengers can take precautions that will improve their chances of surviving - as did everyone aboard the Air France flight that ran off the runway in Toronto.

More people than ever are flying and it's safer than ever to take to the sky. The last major U.S. crash was more than 3 1/2 years ago.

Some questions and answers about airline safety:

A: Good. A National Transportation Safety Board study found that while 2,280 people died in 568 commercial plane accidents from 1988 through 2000, nearly 23 times as many survived - 51,207.

Q: What can I do to improve my chances of survival?

A. Have an evacuation plan. When you take your seat, check to see where the emergency exits are and count the number of rows to them in case the lighting fails. Read the safety card instructions. If you are in an exit row, make sure you understand the tasks you may have to perform if the aircraft is evacuated. Stay alert during takeoff and landing because that is when an accident is most likely. Keep laptops and other items stowed until the plane reaches cruising altitude because they can become dangerous projectiles in an accident. Keep your shoes on.

Q. How much time will I have to evacuate?

A. The Federal Aviation Administration requires aircraft manufacturers to demonstrate that planes can be emptied within 90 seconds before they are allowed to fly. Any longer and the chances of dying from fire or smoke inhalation increase significantly.

In your plane is evacuated, stay calm. Look behind you for exit doors; many passengers crowd toward the front exits because that is the way they got on. Leave your baggage behind, but not in the aisles.

Q: How can I avoid injuries?

A. Wear clothing made from natural fibers. Synthetic clothing has melted on the skin of people involved in accidents. To avoid getting burned when sliding down escape chutes, wear long pants and do not wear nylon hose. Avoid heels, which can puncture the evacuation slides.

Q: What do I do if the slides do not work or if some of the exits are blocked?

A. This happens fairly often - up to one-third of the time, according to the NTSB. If a chute fails, stay calm and listen to the flight attendants. They have been trained how to redirect passengers if exits are blocked or unusable because slides are not working.

Q: What has been done to make airliner cabins safer?

A: The FAA has done a lot to prevent in-flight fires, which are especially dangerous because of the amount of fuel that planes carry. Seat cushions must be made of fire-retardant material, lavatories must have smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, and the cabin ceilings and walls must be made of material that does not burn quickly. The agency also recently ordered the insulation replaced or upgraded in some kinds of aircraft. Aircraft manufacturers are now required to install stronger seats that will not collapse or rip out of the floor in an accident. Rules were made stricter for maintaining and inspecting slides.


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