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Sunday, July 07, 2013

Instead of rushing to judgement...

Within hours of the first reports of this weekend's Asiana (South Korean) 777 airliner crash in San Francisco, the news and tweet-o-sphere were crowded with people making grand pronouncements as to what went wrong.

One commenter observed that "It was pilot error...the plane came in low and slow and hit the breakwater before the runway".  Another shared that she saw the plane coming in "fast and heavy".  Countless others have weighed in with pseudo-technical jargon to express their own views on how/why the scheduled flight from Seoul to San Francisco broke up upon arrival rather than touching down smoothly and taxiing to the terminal as one would expect.

What all of these pundits share is a dearth of solid information, and a  complete lack of background in aeronautics, engineering or accident investigation.

At this point, the pilots of the ill-fated airliner may have some clue as to why things went pear shaped at the end of their long international flight.  But even they will have to wait for the black boxes and other data to be compiled and examined by the folks in the white lab coats who actually look into this sort of thing for a living, before knowing the full scope of what happened.

My point being: will the pundits, media talking heads and their ill-informed 'experts' please STFU?!

If you have to fill the news cycle with something, why not focus on something that can actually be quantified and parced: the number of survivors and the reason there were so few causalties in what appears to be a devastating event.

My guess (and, I stress, it is only a guess) is that the credit for the mostly positive outcome can be largely attributed to the cabin crew... the underpaid, under-appreciated and frequently abused flight attendants.

I fly... a LOT.  I admit that like many passengers, I tolerate, rather than listen to, the safety briefing at the start of each flight. Truth be told, I could probably give the safety briefing if they asked me to, having heard it so many times.  But if push came to shove, I doubt I could carry out the instructions without the close supervision of the cabin staff.

Think about that for a moment... if most people are like me, that means that but for a few random interested souls, the entire responsibility for making sure everything goes correctly in an emergency falls to the poor woman you watched being verbally abused because she didn't bring the pillow or scotch fast enough to suit the traveler seated in 13C.

Whether the crash ends up attributed to mechanical failure, pilot error, some combination thereof, or something else completely... looking at photos of the burned-out plane reminds me just how important the overworked cabin staff are to the safety of travelers.

That there were so few fatalities, and that everyone was evacuated from the shattered and burning aircraft, is worthy of note. I hope the cabin crew gets some sort of medal and/or recognition... but they probably won't.

These people spend most of their time handing out snacks and drinks... but we allow ourselves to forget that their real function is to make sure scores of inattentive, uncooperative, and ultimately terrified people get off the plane quickly and safely in the event of an emergency.

That's no small feat.

So as we enter peak vacation season, I'd like to suggest that we ALWAYS treat the cabin staff with deference, and try to make sure they feel appreciated rather than harassed.

Next time you fly, make sure to say thank you to the flight attendants when they bring you that extra blanket... and as you leave the plane. You don't have to be exiting on an inflatable slide to recognize the selfless heroism of their service.

Posted by David Bogner on July 7, 2013 | Permalink

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No argument with anything you say, David but what is this "extra blanket" of which you speak. American domestic flights haven't had even a single blanket in coach for years.

Posted by: StevenHB | Jul 7, 2013 3:57:23 PM

StevenHB... I travel quite a bit in Asia, and almost not at all in the US. They still have such 'luxuries' in the far east. :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jul 7, 2013 3:59:42 PM

Well said, David.

Posted by: Karl | Jul 7, 2013 4:38:16 PM

Absolutely right, David.

Thank G-d there were so few casualties... small comfort to those who were killed or seriously injured.

One image from the crash bothered me. One of the women escaping from the plane is clearly seen to be lugging a rollaboard suitcase. What would possess someone, when seconds count, to retrieve and carry her bag, possibly impeding others from escaping quickly? (shakes head)

Posted by: Elisson | Jul 7, 2013 5:22:17 PM

Good for you -- this is something that needs to be said!

Posted by: Alisha | Jul 8, 2013 12:37:28 AM

And this is one reason it's nice see you back!
I enjoy a good rant as much as the next guy, but that's easy enough. Getting people to think, not just nod, is talent. Well said :)

Posted by: AW | Jul 8, 2013 5:13:53 PM

Leave it to you to remind us of the "forgotten guy" - thank you.

Posted by: Alissa | Jul 8, 2013 5:33:20 PM

Absolutely... :)

Posted by: val | Jul 8, 2013 8:16:00 PM

dirth -> dearth ; parced -> parsed

Posted by: drm | Jul 9, 2013 12:57:16 PM

As someone who has gone down the shoot before a fire erupted,I can tell you that keeping the panic down depends on the quality of the cabin crew,who like a captain, should be the last to leave the ship. I did notice from the news reports that the serious injuries were ortho in nature,and not burns,which means the crew did their job well.

Posted by: Ed | Jul 9, 2013 6:37:37 PM

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