Deadly Stupidity in Moscow

May 9, 2019

THE CAUSE of the crash of Aeroflot flight 1492 remains unclear. The Sukhoi Superjet-100 had just departed Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, bound for the northern Russian city of Murmansk, when the crew made an emergency return after a lightning strike caused a problem with their communications equipment. The jet then landed hard, bounced and exploded. Forty-one people were killed.

The crash itself may have had nothing to do with the lightning strike. Planes are designed to withstand lightning strikes (see below), and almost never do they cause serious problems. Based on videos, it appears the plane touched down rather violently, and the impact of the landing is what touched off the fire and crash. It’s possible that a strike could have in some way have affected the plane’s instruments or flight controls; or it might have been pilot error.

While we don’t for sure what caused the crash, there’s evidence that the death toll was higher than it might have been, thanks to the selfish actions of a number of passengers. While a deadly fire raged around them, witnesses say people were nonetheless stopping to collect their carry-ons, clogging the aisles and slowing the evacuation. This is just the latest in a string of disturbingly similar incidents. We saw it in in Las Vegas in 2015; in Chicago in 2016; in Toronto in 2005. Among others.

Flight attendants are yelling, “Leave your bags!” but they’re being ignored. People are digging through the bins for their computers and backpacks; here’s a guy coming up the aisle with his roll-aboard. On YouTube you can find selfie videos from idiotic passengers who thought it was cool to film themselves going down the escape slide.

I cannot overemphasize how unsafe this is. Luggage slows people down, impedes access to the aisles and exits, and it turns the escape slides into a deadly slalom. The incident in Moscow is particularly striking, because while most evacuations are precautionary, this one was a full-blown emergency. The airplane was on fire. If that isn’t reason enough to leave your things and get the fuck off the plane as quickly as you can, then heaven help you.

Even in cases where the plane isn’t on fire or about to explode; still, the crew might not be fully certain of what it’s dealing with, and this is never a situation to take lightly. Seconds count, and the goal is to get everybody out as fast as possible. What at first might seem an abundance of caution can quickly turn to terror. Suddenly there’s a mad rush for the exits, but the aisle is clogged with suitcases dropped by panicked passengers. Your computer, your Kindle, your electric toothbrush, your underwear and your Sudoku books — none of those things is worth risking your life over. Not to mention the lives of the passengers behind you, who can’t get to the door because your 26-inch Tumi is in the way.

And a word about those escape slides: although you can’t always see it in videos or photos, the slides are extremely steep. They are not designed with convenience — or fun — in mind. They are designed for no other purpose than to empty a plane of its occupants as rapidly as possible. You’ll be coming down from over two stories high in the case of a widebody jet, at a very rapid clip, with others in front of you and right behind you. Even without bags people are often injured going down the slides. This is expected. Add carry-ons to the mix and somebody is liable to be killed, smacked on the head by your suitcase or baby stroller.

Airlines and regulators are at least partly to blame for this behavior by not better emphasizing the issue during the safety briefing. Of all the gibberish that is crammed into the typical pre-flight demo, one of the most potentially valuable pieces of instruction is often missing: a warning on what to do — or, more accurately, what not to do — in an emergency evacuation. This should be a bold-print, high-emphasis item in any briefing, stated clearly and loudly. Instead we get complicated, twenty-step directions on how to use a life jacket — as if anybody might remember them as they’re jumping into the water. (I could also mention that while neither is likely, a runway evacuation is a lot more likely than a water landing.)

The briefings need to be shorter and more concise, and this needs to be a part of them. It’s hard to say how much it might help to offset some people’s selfish tendencies and general obliviousness, but it wouldn’t hurt.

Leave your bags behind. It all will be returned to you later, no worse for wear. And if, in that rarest of rare cases, it winds up incinerated, you should be happy to have lost it. Lest it have been you in there.



 

Planes are hit by lightning more frequently than you might expect — an individual jetliner is struck about once every two years, on average — and are built accordingly. The energy does not travel through the cabin electrocuting the passengers; it is discharged overboard through the plane’s aluminum skin, which is an excellent electrical conductor. Composite aircraft are built with a copper mesh beneath the paint layer that acts the same way. Once in a while there’s exterior damage — a superficial entry or exit wound — or minor injury to the plane’s electrical systems, but a strike typically leaves little or no evidence. If indeed lightning touched off a fire aboard Aeroflot 1492, this would be highly unusual.

In 1993, I was captaining a thirty-seven seater when lightning from an embedded cumulonimbus cell got us on the nose. What we felt and heard was little more than a dull flash and a thud. No warning lights flashed, no generators tripped off line. Our conversation went:

“What was that?”

“I don’t know.” [shrug]

“Lightning?”

“Might have been.”

Mechanics would later find a black smudge on the forward fuselage.



Aeroflot was founded in 1923 and is one of the oldest airlines in the world. In its heydays in the 1970s it was by far the largest carrier on earth — bigger than all of the U.S. majors combined. After the fall of the Soviet Union it was broken up into dozens of airlines, the largest of which still carries the Aeroflot name.

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78 Responses to “Deadly Stupidity in Moscow”
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  1. Jonathan Stratton says:

    Well done to the Aeroflot Stewardess who was grabbing people by the collar, when they weren’t being quick enough, and throwing them out onto the slide.

  2. Prabakaran says:

    Why can’t the airlines lock the luggage compartment ? new system need to be implement in airlines luggage’s should not be release otherwise the Flight attendants or crew release the locker switch then only they can take the hand carry luggage, this will save the people in feature during accident.

  3. Kevin A says:

    If nobody was hindered by bags in this case, that’s great news, but it’s still a bad idea. This reminded me of a documentary I saw several years ago about the development of the A380. There was a segment on the evacuation test. (quick youtube search will find it). I noticed that none of the 800 or so passengers had any bags with them. Only a vest with a number. I don’t even remember seeing a purse. I can assume that’s not required in the test. Has it ever been done with people intentionally carrying bags to see how that affects the outcome? If not for certification, at least for research?

  4. Frank says:

    I’ve since read that human nature under huge stress is to regress to primitive unthinking habit, i.e. in the face of incomprehensible disaster, first grab your bag as you don’t know what’s outside or where you’ll go

    Whilst it is easy to criticise, very few of us have ever actually been in such a situation, so don’t know how we’d really behave then

    On a tangent, I have read that in a cinema fire, those who queue nicely for the exit are more likely to die in the fire, while those who panic and push and shove and clamber rudely over other people are more likely to survive.

    In which case, nice guys may not last …

  5. Carol says:

    Passengers might be reminded of the fate of the semi-famous Canadian folk singer, Stan Rogers, who died of smoke inhalation when a fire broke out in an airplane (in the bathroom) that made an emergency landing in Ohio. He and 22 others died of smoke inhalation. The surge of oxygen from the doors opening fueled the fire more. Perhaps nothing could have saved this bunch.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stan_Rogers#Death

    • Ian says:

      I remember Stan well, having had the great pleasure of seeing him perform several times when I was living in southwestern Ontario. I don’t know about semi famous, I learned of his death in 1983 in a folk club newspaper that I picked up while attending an Archie Fisher concert in a church basement in Edinborough. In certain circles perhaps. Those of us who pay attention to the safety announcements at the beginning of a flight [all of us to be sure], will recall being informed of the emergency lighting on the floor pointing the way to the exits. It was one of the recommendations made following the fire, although it had reportedly been recommended at other times as well, even as early as 1972 by the FAA.

      • Carol says:

        Stan was known in the Northeast folk scene, moreso in Canada, where he wrote songs of the Maritimes, although he wasn’t from there.
        Here’s a film clip of Stan and his band: https://youtu.be/B6Nl3PaTimA?t=43
        His brother, Garnet, still tours a little. He’s the long-haired guy in the video.
        Interesting to read about the aisle lights, Ian. Thanks.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Great article, and only a minor correction that Aerflot “was broken up into dozens of airlines”. It was not dozens, but hundreds. The exact number depends on how you define “airline”, but it was at least 450.

  7. DomL says:

    Possible solution 1: state very clear in safety videos that individuals with their carryon in an escape scenario will be prosecuted and held liable for all injuries in the event of emergency exit.

    Possible solution 2: punch the f***ers who do this. It’s just stuff.

  8. Alexa Cawley says:

    Hi Patrick!

    Thank you for everything you’ve written – I am quite the nervous flyer, but fly very often, and knowledge helps my anxiety. Lest it to say, your website has provided a ton of comfort while I am anxiously about to head to Cannes from NYC.

    I actually did stumble across an article that said exactly what you did above – each plane gets struck about once every year or two, the day before my jetblue airbus was struck on takeoff from LAX to JFK! Thank goodness I read that article the day before.

    Regardless, thank you again for the information you provide. I bought your book and can’t wait to read it!

    • Hilary C Olson says:

      Alexa , I too was a terrified frequent flier. … I decided to do something about it because I am in awe of flight. I took some flying lessons and decided education is the best policy.. I did earn my Private Pilot Certificate. .

  9. Alan Dahl says:

    TASS has reported more recently that people grabbing their luggage wasn’t a big hindrance to the evacuation, the people in the back of the plane simply had no chance as the fireball was immediate. Those from the back of the plane that were listed among the survivors had actually moved forward before the landing and were gathered near the front of the plane (it’s unclear if they were in unoccupied seats, standing in the aisle or sitting on the floor). Still no excuse for taking your luggage with you during evacuation though for all of the reasons listed.

  10. Gary Paquette says:

    How about an ISO standard carry-on that is identical to all the others and is stowed on a lockable rack system in lieu of bins? Bags would be locked into the rack until the flight crew released them either individually or all together. Sort of like containerized cargo. Either that or no carryons at all larger than a purse. A little inconvenience could save a lot of lives.

  11. Bob Cov says:

    Just make it a criminal offense to exit a plane during an emergency with any luggage. Let a judge or prosecutor decide who to charge and who not to charge, but make the financial penalties are severe and based on yearly income so that if you are rich, the fine is not trivial.

  12. Stephen Stapleton says:

    Patrick and I have gone round and round on this, but the assumption one can leave everything on the plane and then be just fine simply isn’t true for everyone.

    I take 11 medications and need a CPAP machine to sleep. I might, with some major discomfort, last a day, but not much longer. I wouldn’t be able to sleep, that is for sure. Sure, I can leave it behind on the plane, but I face near certain death without them. So, I am dependent on the airline and the host country to replace my durable medical equipment and medication expeditiously or I die.

    If I had even some modicum of faith an airline was capable of always functioning and behaving properly in such circumstances, I would risk it, but I’ve seen airline personnel act with absolute casual indifference to passengers and their very real concerns. I’ve seen airline personnel ignore the needs of a wheelchair passenger in flight who needed to get to the bathroom (the man wound up soiling himself thanks to the staff). I’ve seen airline staff ignore even the most common of human decency. Yes, most staff are great, wonderful human being who go far and above the minimum, but I am not sure I want to risk my life on the lottery of airline staff. Am I supposed to trust people who drag passengers off planes and separate gay families?

    Thus, sorry, but I am grabbing my CPAP bag that also has my medications.

    • Bob Cov says:

      That’s an interesting scenario. Are you saying then that you have the right to condemn another passenger to death because you have a deadly medical condition? Or, another way to look at it: I’m 12 rows ahead of you, fire is about to catch you. You have 3 seconds. I take 7 seconds to get my medical kit which my life depends on. You die. You’re okay with what I did?

      • Stephen Stapleton says:

        I don’t stand in the aisle to get my bag. When possible, I put it under the seat ahead of me. Thus, I am not blocking the aisle and people exiting.

        However, to your point, do I think I have a right to save myself or must I sacrifice my life to allow others to live? I know myself well enough to know the answer is very situational. I would sacrifice to save people I know and love, but would not do so for total strangers. I do not suggest this as something to be proud of, but simply the answer. I truly hope grabbing my bag would not condemn someone else to die, but I am not willing to sacrifice myself.

        Also, if I may suggest, one is unlikely to die from the fire itself but from smoke inhalation.

        • Bill says:

          At least you’re honest about your complete lack of care for others around you. As a medical professional, I am almost completely sure you are exaggerating the severity of your condition. I have yet to see one patient die of acute obstructive sleep apnea.

        • Mark Harrison says:

          You and I have exchanged notes on this before.

          You are not going to die inside of 48 hours because you don’t have a CPAP machine.

          If you are an insulin dependent diabetic, yeah you may need to take your immediate supplies with you, depending on where the accident took place. An insulin dependent diabetic could easily pack what they need into a small lightweight hand held bag that will get you through the next 24-48 hours that will not endanger you or anybody else that has the misfortune to be near you. Keep that bag with you and put it in the seat pocket when you board.

          In any city in most countries that has an airport, you will be fine.

          The exact origin of the following bon mot is not exactly known. It is frequently attributed to de Gaulle, Clemenceau, Churchill and others. It goes:

          Graveyards everywhere are full of once indispensable men.

          Apologies if this is a spoiler, but we are both going to die. Neither you, nor I, are more important than other people.

    • Jim says:

      With all due respect, and in full acknowledgement of your need for the meds and CPAP machine, but may God Almighty himself intervene if I am ever delayed by somebody grabbing their stuff.
      I promise, guarantee, verify, pledge, and take a blood oath right here that if there is a delay of 1 (one) second, I will commit physical violence on any person holding up the egress procedure. They will end up between seats and NOT in the aisle.
      That goes equally for somebody stopping to take video so they can post something on face plant before the emergency vehicles even arrive.
      You can leave the meds and the cpap machine and I’ll rent you a car and personally drive you to the pharmacy for replacements.
      We are talking about endangering the very lives of the others. Not worth risking lives over a cpap machine and prescription meds. Ever.

      Note: a little research will reveal that a fire, while dangerous, is one thing, but it’s the fumes/smoke from the lightweight airplane materials that virtually instantly put someone out.

      • Laura says:

        Sorry, Jim, but I’d also ake my medications. I keep them in the bag under the seat instead of the overhead bin. You can’t always get what you need in different countries, and some of my medications usually have to be pre-ordered. And, since Stephen and I wouldn’t be blocking the aisle while we’re getting our medications, your reaction is a little excessive, don’t you think? And don’t you think that starting a brawl would cause more delay than someone grabbing a bag from under the seat–before getting into the aisle? What you should really worry about is that in airlines’ rush to increase profits, they are decreasing seat size and cramming passengers in to the extent that they can’t evacuate in the time required…why don’t you lobby the FAA about that one?

        • Jim says:

          No brawl. The delay-causing offender would end up merely shoved between the seat rows while the rest exit. I also clearly stated “if I am ever delayed by . . . .”

          “When possible, I put it under the seat ahead of me. Thus, I am not blocking the aisle and people exiting.” WHAT? WRONG.

          With respect to the life-risking displays of narcissistic “me” vis trying to take that precious carry-on, whatever, please locate video of pax using escape slides. Very steep depending on airplane model, very smooth surface, very fast exit under way. It is semi-normal for passengers to be injured ANYWWAY with zero precious bags in hands and now you have a jam-up at the bottom of the slide. Exiting in a true emergency in true distress is one of those snap life-and-death situations.

          Side issue hint: I worked in this industry for about 30 years and as part of my job assignment, routinely read more NTSB reports IN GREAT DETAIL than I wanted to. If there is a true emergency, get out.

          • Pablo Escobar's Ghost says:

            Well, I know what happened to my employees whenever they lift my merchandise behind to burn up on the plane. Things got so messy I finally required them to swallow my stuff with balloons.

    • Ian says:

      I don’t know how bulky your medications are but perhaps you could simply “wear” them, i.e put them in your pockets. A photographer’s vest, with pockets for extra lenses, filters, etc. should have the necessary capacity.

  13. Noreen says:

    I’ve seen it mentioned below and I’ve saying it for years…

    Charge for carry-on bags.
    No charge for checked luggage.

    The exact opposite of the current system. People are cheap. They will check if charged for carry-on.

    • MaryBeth says:

      Yes! This. It would also really speed up the boarding and deplaning process. People will do anything they can to avoid extra fees. Many would choose to check if it was free.

  14. passing through says:

    Several people are talking about bins that lock in these situations. Simon has the correct counterpoint – this would not really help. You’d just get people wasting time, trying to get the locked bins open.

  15. James Priyam says:

    How about central locking of the over head carriage ? To be activated by crew members during emergency.

  16. Great read.
    Common sense is a thing of the past apparently.
    M

  17. Gery Van Dessel says:

    Sad to say but i think only one solution would work in the safery videos to compel people not to take luggage during an emergency evacuation: whoever attempts to take a luggage will himself during an emergency evacuation can be prosecuted, including with manslaughter charges that lead to imprisonment.

  18. Tom says:

    The legacy of People Express Airlines lives on, apparently. Remember them? The discount carrier of the 1980s that originated this whole insane idea of hauling all the crap you can onboard the aircraft? I once saw a woman dragging an overhead projector and a screen onto one of their flights.

    I second the motion for getting rid of overhead bins completely and allowing only a book, laptop and purse (or similar sized bag) onboard.

    • PeterS says:

      1. Get rid of bag fees — they encourage people to use huge carry on bags for all their stuff.
      2. Fix the theft problem. People bring all their valuable and semi-valuable stuff because they (justifiably) fear it will be stolen out of their checked bags.
      3. Make “leave your stuff” a part of the preflight briefing. And make no bones about why — don’t sugar coat it.

      I’ve seen the videos. You can only evacuate a plane full of passengers in the allocated time if *everything* goes right. If not, people will die. And those who got off with their carryons will not blame themselves for the deaths, though they will be directly responsible for them.

      • Darren Mallette says:

        I flew UA from Cancun-EWR on the 10th and I found it odd that they included “in case of evacuation, leave your stuff behind” in the pre-flight safety brief. I hadn’t yet heard about this accident but was thinking something must’ve happened. I’m wondering if it was a Mexican mandate, as I haven’t heard that in the briefing in US/Canada since.

  19. Pam says:

    I don’t understand why there isn’t compulsary crew-controlled central locking for overhead cabins on all commercial passenger planes. The obstructive & potentially lethal scramble for luggage is a recurrent theme that could be effectively addressed by statutory flight law.

    • Linda Gillatt says:

      Pam – that was my first thought! Why not have an automatic locking system for overhead lockers in the event of an emergency? A combination of this together with it being firmly announced during the information of emergency action could change this dangerous situation perhaps?

      • Rod says:

        If it’s locked out of reach throughout the flight, What’s It Doing In the Cabin At ALL?

        • Don Larsen says:

          I think the suggestion is that the bins be unlocked in normal flight, but at some point in a developing emergency they could be locked by the crew. Maybe even initiated remotely when parameters of safe flight are exceeded by g load, rate of descent, smoke detection, whatever.

  20. Earl O'Neill says:

    Once again, “I just don’t get it.”
    I travel light and rarely check luggage. I’m also one of those odd folk who dress well, jacket and tie, so everything important is in a pocket. Fat book in hand, spare clothes in a light bag, I’m set.
    I would drop it all in an instant if I was told to “Get out NOW!” Yes, even the $1000 tailored jacket.
    What the hell is so important that you need to take from a burning aeroplane?
    PS – Patrick, write about your record collection, I’d like to see how it compares with mine.

  21. Miguel Dominguez says:

    a) Locking mechanisms are not a bad idea, as long as signs stating something to the effect of “Leave your shit behind, you fuckwit! Get the fuck outta here!” are also activated. As Patrick said, they are liable to fail in case of accident, though.

    b) Fining people for their stupidity is ok by me, too, even considering that idiots will claim that:
    b1) they were in shock and let muscle memory go through the motions of a normal deplaning, or
    b2) they didn’t know why it was so important to leave their shit behind, and
    b3) “why are you picking on me, leave me alone, I was a victim too!”

    c) The best solution, in my opinion, is combining a) and b) with massive communication campaigns that introduce in popular culture the notion that trying to take your shit with you puts people in danger and is a massive dick move. After a couple of high profile movies, TV series and documentaries have shown this and everybody is clear about it, it will be passengers themselves who will grab the remaining idiots without a clue by the neck and push them down the aisle leaving their things behind. Nobody wants to be the entitled fucktard in the story of their crash. That and the great job by Patrick and YouTubers would really help.

    That way, nobody can claim they didn’t know. You got fined with thousands of dollars and publicly shamed in social media and TV? Tough titties, you moron!

  22. Alan says:

    The solution needs to be laws that make it blatantly illegal to take your luggage with you during an evacuation. Sure it might be ignored at times but even a few people changing their behavior will help a lot.

  23. Lena says:

    I was on a plane that was hit by lightning once. We saw a flash, and heard a loud crack and then the lights went off. And everyone went super quiet – but then the lights came back on and nothing happened.

  24. JamesP says:

    “…leave your things and get the fuck off the plane as quickly as you can…”

    I think that that should replace “tampering with, disabling, or destroying smoke detectors…” in every preflight starting now. Yes, that exact wording, because people don’t seem to be getting the message.

  25. Brian Bulkowski says:

    There is a lot of bad behavior on airplanes, and pilots, aircrew, and airlines both ignore it and even enable it.

    Let’s start with dogs roaming the cabin. It’s against FAA regs, I have literally never seen a true “service animal” on a plane. Yes, airlines and pilots and aircrew “look the other way” at what is clearly against the rules.

    Let’s move to use of overhead bins, use of cellular radios. The aircrew makes a lot of announcements about both, and everyone ignores them. Both have little to do with safety, but once you are used to ignoring announcements, what comes next?

    What about the clicking of seatbelts as soon as the airplane wheels hit tarmac? Any follower of aviation news knows the taxiways and runways are dangerous, and there are announcements and lighted signs, yet one hears click-click-click-click.

    “Me first” might be more prevalent in Russia than most of the world (I’ve only been through moscow once in the last year), or might not, but all of these other things happen throughout the world regularly. As long as I get out, I would rather not have to replace my $2000 laptop, and I don’t really care if someone behind me burns to death. Why should I?

    I don’t know if there was a real difference caused by people taking things down the slides, or increase in injuries, but when you see those reports and videos, if you are a regular flyer, you probably shrug and say “makes sense”…. and I blame the aircrew and airlines worldwide for not wanting to enforce the rules

  26. Kevin says:

    KLM and Air France both include a “leave all hand luggage behind” in the evacuation part of the safety briefing. I’m pretty sure LOT, Lufthansa, SAS and the late BMI did too.

    Although most passengers aren’t listening anyway.

  27. Andrey Mironov says:

    Bullshit, several survivors reported no one delayed evacuation with cabin luggage.

  28. Tim says:

    I think people must go into some sort of shock that has them go through the motions of of getting their things together. Maybe it’s a subconscious form of denial.

    But if sixty people each delay evacuation by one second, that’s an entire minute. How many people could be evacuated in that minute?

  29. Simon says:

    The locking idea is totally silly (apart from being costly and error prone).

    You’ll just have a bunch of people trying to yank open a locker and in the process they’ll block the aisles even more. Plus, lost of stuff never goes into the locker. You can have a small heavy case under the seat in front of you just fine. That thing will still end up on the chute, lock or no lock.

    No, the real solution is to finally stop people from bringing so much crap on board. Charge $50+ for every single carry on and make checked luggage free. Exactly the opposite of today – create an incentive to do the less convenient but more efficient thing. That would also make the circus that is today’s boarding/deboarding so much quicker and less annoying. And of course in an accident, we’d be out of dodge a whole lot faster and safer.

    Ball’s squarely in the airlines’ court.

    • Dmitri says:

      Can’t agree more.

    • bob cov says:

      Airlines make a lot of money from checked luggage, much more than they could make from a fee for carry-on luggage and free luggage in the hold. Why would they give up all of that revenue in anticipation of an event which is so infrequent? It doesn’t make economic sense and would never happen voluntarily. Seat belts were known to be a very good thing, but before 1966 were sold as an option. Only if a government forces airlines to implement a change of the type you suggest would it ever stand a chance of happening.

  30. Angus says:

    Why have aircraft manufacturers not developed a basic central locking system for the luggage bins controlled from the cockpit or by cabin crew and locked during landing? Cost? Weight? Complexity? The fact it shouldn’t bloody be needed in the first place? All of the above? It just feels like something significant needs to be done to get the dafter passengers on the same page as everyone else in an emergency, and explaining to them before the plane takes off in the first place that in an emergency situation they will be physically unable to get at their carry ons and not to bother trying might work if there’s no technical obstacle.

  31. Alain says:

    Swiss actuall emphasizes to leave your damn luggage where it is not only in the safety briefing, but also prior to the landing of the plane.

    They also insist that you’re *obliged* to keep your seat belts on at any times when seated.

    I’m fine with both points.

    On a sidenote on seat belts: I really don’t get those folks who unbuckle three seconds after the plane touched down. You’re endangering yourself and others for the advantage of getting off the plane exactly zero seconds eralier.

    Idiots!

  32. Dmitri says:

    This is a social media wave of victim blaming. Those who watched the video more carefully (me including) saw only a few small handbags A4-paper size. This entire debate seems irrelevant.

    There was no fire onboard. Pilots communications have already leaked, and there’s nothing special, they asked for a normal landing. Firemen also arrived quickly and started firefighting within a minute of planes’ full stop.

    The direct reason is plane bouncing on landing. Here’s an incident with Let-410 plane in training: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBcaAmJCieU

    What is relevant is more complex and long lasting. One thing I keep hearing from people who learned to fly in Russia is a deadly commitment to landing at all costs. Some who learned to fly even tell me “below decision height you can only land”, which is false. It’s easy to find go arounds initiated right after bouncing.

    And the problem with this is deeper: it’s dogmatic learning, it’s Tu-154 pilots teach future A32x/B737 pilots to land like they did. It’s bad CRM practices in airlines and in the minitstry.

  33. Konstantin says:

    I’ve read some reports from the passengers and all of them said it’s not true people started collecting their belongings. Kinda false reporting by the media.

    • Rod Miller says:

      Youtube is full of videos of people lugging large items away and — when they’re far enough to be out of danger — stopping to put them down and recover their breath from the effort of running with those things.

      Nobody is saying that Russian passengers behave any worse than those involved in the other classic examples (Toronto, Las Vegas, San Francisco, etc.). Unfortunately it’s human behaviour.

      Something serious needs to be done.

      • Andrey Mironov says:

        One of the last survivors to leave the plane said nothing delayed his evacuation, which speaks against your argument. Even if someone evacuated with luggage, it didn’t have an adverse effect.

        • Tom says:

          As the linked article points out, this is partially due to luck. After the evacuation began, no other issues arose. Had there been any subsequent trouble to deal with, luggage in the aisles could well have been a serious problem.

          This is like claiming “It clearly wasn’t a problem that I drove home drunk, since I survived.” It may not have caused a specific problem in this case but that doesn’t make it safe.

        • Ryan says:

          i don’t understand why anyone would stick up for it unless you were one of those luggage runners.

  34. Spock says:

    There is very simple and I believe effective solution. There should be lockers on overhead compartments.
    They might be locket by pilots or some predefined conditions (entered squawk code, pressure loss etc).
    With clear info/lights that they are locked.

  35. Blair Kooistra says:

    There oughta be a law. . . .prohibiting retrieval of carry-on items in the event of emergency landings. Survivors of these events should be held accountable–you’re seen with a laptop or backpack or roll aboard milling around after evacuating, and you’re held accountable.

    I like that idea of locking down the overhead bins, but then there’s the issue of the stuff stowed under the seat ahead of you. . .

    • Tom says:

      It looks like there is: 49 USC 46504, “Interference with flight crew members and attendants”.

      IANAL but I would say evacuation of the aircraft in an emergency is one of the duties of the crew, and carrying luggage (especially when asked not to) would therefore constitute interference with this task.

  36. Rod says:

    Suggestion: Arrange things so that the overhead bins are locked in a process triggered by the same mechanism that arms the slides. (By this point everyone is supposed to strapped into their seats, right?) And the bins won’t unlock again until the slides are disarmed upon safe arrival.

    Sorry ’bout dat — c’est la vie — but people have shown themselves to be incorrigible.

    • Patrick says:

      This gets brought up quite a bit. I’m not sure how practical such a system would be — or prone to malfunction, especially in an accident.

      • Rod says:

        Then This is what will occur. Nobody cares about what happens in Russia to a Russian airplane. So we’ll have to wait for a hair-raising disaster in the West where a huge number of people die for this very reason.
        Then — and only then — will minds be turned to solutions.

        What is hand luggage Really? It’s what you need During the Flight. You definitely don’t need a freaking hard-shelled roller affair loaded with lead bricks which I nearly got brained by one time just standing waiting to disembark while some bonehead was rifling through the overhead and knocked it out on top of me.

        This is like the authorities putting in a stop light only after a child has been hit and killed. One day they may well do away with this faux “hand luggage” drivel. Instead, if you have only a small bag because you don’t want to wait downstairs and you’re not staying long, for a small prepaid fee it gets taken from you at the end of the jetway and handed back to you as you get off. (Where I live people with baby strollers are intercepted right there and the same thing happens — it’s free — and this is a low-cost carrier.) Then the overhead bins can disappear and each passenger can have a purse-size affair (minor leeway for parents with infants).

        It can be like smoking. We used to gag our way through flights. Well we don’t anymore.

  37. John Neidhart says:

    As both a pilot and frequent airline passenger, I think it would be entirely reasonable to charge people who grab luggage, etc. during an emergency egress of an airplane with a crime. And if other people die, that crime should be, at least, manslaughter.

    • Patrick says:

      I sympathize with your point, but if passengers aren’t AWARE that what they’re doing is dangerous, because it hasn’t been adequately explained or made clear to them, can they be held criminally responsible? I don’t think most passengers are acting maliciously in these circumstances. They’re simply oblivious. There’s a panic element too.

      • Kaemu says:

        There may be some legal distinction I am not aware of, but how can one not be aware that, in such circumstances, time is of the essence and that there is none for collecting one’s stuff.

        Some people even filmed the inside of the plane burning. This leaves me positively speechless.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yes, but it depends on the jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions require recklessness, which is usually defined as the intentional disregard of a serious known risk. I think the fire warnings would be enough.

        Other jurisdictions only require negligence, but usually negligence in a criminal case is more serious than in a civil case.

        Here’s a link to a wikipedia article about a negligent maintenance worker that led to an aircrash. The worker was criminally convicted of negligent homicide.

      • Mark Harrison says:

        In terms of criminal law, “I didn’t know it was a crime” is not a defence.

        Even if a prosecutor took leniency or didn’t think there was enough evidence to commit the accused to trial, a civil suit action against the person that held up the line by surviving families and passengers would almost certainly be upheld in court. Civil suits require a much lower burden of proof.

        • Mark Harrison says:

          Just to correct my predictions; I do not think a civil suit would be a lay down misère (to use a gambling expression). But it sure would be uncomfortable being the respondent; and I would sure be planning on at least having to pay my own costs!

    • STACEY GORDON says:

      Charging people with a crime,locking down the luggage(Controlling it, essentially) or suing after the fact, will not stop folks from doing stupid things in a panic and won’t save lives. Laws are not the answers. Incentives are. Make checked bags free, charge for carry ons, make the overhead bins too small to fit suitcases and allow only small computer bag/hand bag/backpacks onboard. All you need on your person, are your keys, medications, phone, laptop/book and a jacket etc..
      Surely the airlines see that this would will help speed up boarding, make evacuations safer, and maybe even free up some space in the cabin.
      Oh, and perhaps spare some flight attendants some back problems from lifting and moving heavy bags, as well as keeping the passengers from dropping heavy bags on the folks seated in the aisle seats. It will also speed things up at TSA/Security.
      Win Win

  38. Amlan Gupta says:

    Patrick, do you think that there would be grounds to sue people who take their bags? Maybe a type of negligent homicide. Maybe civil versus crimial. I’d be interested to hear also what some lawyers might say. I certainly don’t think you are going to change this behavior by different safety briefings. The people who do this stuff don’t listen anyways.

    • Tom says:

      As a lawyer, I’m skeptical that it would be possible to make much headway litigating a civil claim based on someone retrieving their bags during evacuation. The problem is not that there are no applicable legal theories, but instead the more basic problem of how you can prove without speculation that if someone had not retrieved their bag then the victim would not have been injured or died. Opinion about what might have happened under a different set of circumstances is generally insufficient to establish causation. The other problem is that only the people inside the plane would have personal knowledge of what happened, and with the chaos, smoke, angst, etc., their recollections (assuming they even survived) would probably be spotty and divergent. If it were a crime to have one’s bag in one’s hand after an evacuation it might be more easy to prove factually, but I’m not sure either the legislature or prosecutors would have the stomach to put in motion the mechanism to charge people with crimes after they have survived a potentially deadly situation.