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  • OPINION: Time to tackle baggage threat to aircraft evacuation

OPINION: Time to tackle baggage threat to aircraft evacuation

In the factual vacuum between a highly-publicised air crash or incident and the release of details from the investigation, secondary issues tend to dominate the public discussion.

Following the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in March 2014, the industry was forced to confront the appalling lack of reliable flight tracking capability over oceans and remote areas.

But after the spectacular engine fire that engulfed a British Airways Boeing 777-200ER in Las Vegas, another safety issue has drawn attention, which may prove much more difficult – if not impossible – to address.

Pictures and videos shared by evacuating passengers revealed many of them plodding down the runway with cumbersome carry-on luggage in tow. Retrieving such items during an emergency evacuation is clearly dangerous. If this does not kill passengers by slowing their exit, then large suitcases can cause major injuries on the exit slides.

How can this behaviour be stopped? Penalising scofflaws is likely to be a useless gesture. Passengers may be oblivious to the danger, or make irrational decisions. A Russian solution on the Irkut MC-21 is reported to use an automatic locking system for overhead bins. Until more is known about the cause of the 777 fire, it is worth turning the industry’s focus to the carry-on luggage problem during an evacuation.

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