Qantas turbulence – time to act

Seatbelt.jpg

Details still coming in at time of writing, but this sounds particularly nasty. Something like 40 people hurt in a Qantas A330 that suffered some kind of in-flight upset. Probably turbulence, maybe something else. But there are apparently multiple broken bones, which is pretty clearly indicative of a serious incident.

Regardless of the cause, it’s hard not to assume that most or all of these people were not strapped in. As this has now happened to an anglophone, developed-world, flag-carrier (which is what it often takes sadly) – perhaps something will change. I’ve been blogging on this subject for a while, but mainly addressingpassengers. Now I think it’s time the industry got to grips with thisissue.

Think what you get in a typical pre-flight announcement. About 80%(crude guess) of it addresses the emergency evacuation scenario withdire warnings of the possible consequences. Likewise the seatbackleaflet, and the cute animated movies that are now the norm inlong-haul.

They’re addressing something that is vanishingly unlikely to happen. Onany flight you can practically feel the tension drain out of the cabinshortly after take-off. Reassuring message from the flight attendants,raised level of conversation, lots of body movement and…the clatterof seatbelts being unlatched.

Here’s a suggestion: what is needed at that exact point in the flightis a follow-up announcement, in similarily dire tones as the pre-flightone, warning of the possible consequences of not being strapped in. Andthe seatback leaflet and safety movie should have cute graphics showingpeople bouncing off the ceiling of the aircraft.

This Qantas incident may have been down to clear air turbulence.Ironically that link is to an Australian government website – but Idon’t think most people understand about CAT. They think they’ll getwarning of turbulence. As well as the on-board measures I’ve suggestedabove, some public education is also needed.

Any other ideas???

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63 Responses to Qantas turbulence – time to act

  1. Paul October 7, 2008 at 1:50 pm #

    They should also mention that the aircraft will make a rapid (controlled) descent to ~10000 feet in case of a cabin pressurization failure.

  2. Perry October 7, 2008 at 3:59 pm #

    As a pilot for US major Part 121 airline this is something that gives me endless frustration. The problem lies I think with the passengers themselves. We can make all the announcements in the world but because true unforecast turbulence is a rare event none of them listen. The problem is I think best illustrated by the fact that even when we turn the seat belt sign on, tell passengers we are expecting rough air, AND ask the flight attendants to be seated we still have people who want to ignore all that and get up and pull stuff out of the overheads use the lav etc.

    I agree this is a problem and it’s unacceptable that we continue to have needless injuries. But the only solution as I see it is to turn our in-flight crew into the seatbelt police because passengers have repeatedly demonstrated that no matter what the announcement if it’s routine and inconvenient they will ignore it.

  3. Paul Nelson October 7, 2008 at 10:50 pm #

    As a larger sized male, I find it really uncomfortable to have the seatbelt done up during the flight. But I still do it. Especially when trying to sleep. Loose enough so I can still move, but tight enough so I can’t slip out. Many times I’ve been on aircraft that have literally fallen hundreds of metres in clear skies with no warning. I’ve heard grown men scream like frightened children, and seen full trays of food float away as if in a zero-g manoeuvre. There’s not much distance from seat to ceiling: I don’t fancy a broken neck.

    How do you get everyone to keep their belt done up? Make it mandatory. Fit a switch to each belt so a red light comes on the overhead panel if the belt is not done up. Extend the take off requirement to the entire flight. I’m not sure how you deal with going to the toilet, or for a walk around the cabin.

  4. DAve October 15, 2008 at 3:50 am #

    Why are we so hell bent on preventing people from hurting themselves. We are living in a world where it seems cotton wool is the answer to everything. As a frequent flyer on Qantas I know the captain on every flight says to keep your seatbelt fastened even if the light is off. I personally wear my seatbelt without the need to be told even if that makes sleeping harder and after many million miles of air travel have not experienced a rapid decent. The bottom line is just like DVT you have a choice take the advice or face the consequences, but don’t wrap everyone in cotton wool.

  5. Chandra Bhogaita March 30, 2009 at 11:30 am #

    I believe it should be mandatory to wear seat belts during the whole flight. Yes aircraft themselves are designed to withstand CAT and there is a requirement to avoid severe turbulence. But clear air turbulence can occur without warning and result in passengers AND their belongings being thrown about. Do passengers really need a heavy laptop in-flight? Are they really that important? Think of the consequences of it being thrown up and landing on a passengers head… There has to be a warning given by the air steward/esses of the risks of not being strapped in during the pre-flight safety briefing..Invariably it is passengers not strapped who get injured… Not that long ago passengers were allowed to smoke in-flight, now that it is prohibited, passengers have universally accepted it… so too for making it mandatory to waer seat belt during the whole flight…PLEASE…

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    Many people have already booked their trip by the time they see me, so I will often ask how they expect themselves to “go” on the flight. All sorts of interesting answers often topple out, including concerns about turbulence. I don’t jump straight onto it however preferring to work around it, much like a plane works around thunderstorms, checking out what else may be important for me to know.

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