Planned and Unplanned Emergencies
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    Planned and Unplanned Emergencies

    In Safety Training, we refer to Planned and Unplanned Emergencies, but what do we mean by that?  Well, its simple really.  A Planned Emergency is where there is time to plan the landing and brief and prepare the passengers for the subsequent emergency landing or crash.  An Unplanned Emergency is where there is little or no time to prepare the aircraft or brief the passengers. 

    To best illustrate what each term means, I have taken an example of each from published accident reports.


    On February 2, 2005, about 0718 eastern standard time, a Bombardier Challenger CL-600-1A11, N370V, ran off the departure end of runway 6 at Teterboro Airport (TEB), Teterboro, New Jersey, at a ground speed of about 110 knots; through an airport perimeter fence; across a six-lane highway (where it struck a vehicle); and into a parking lot before impacting a building. The two pilots were seriously injured, as were two occupants in the vehicle. The cabin aide, eight passengers, and one person in the building received minor injuries. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces and post impact fire.

          This is obviously unplanned - there was very little time to warn the passengers about what was about to happen.  The cabin aide on the aircraft stated that she did not notice any problems during the takeoff until she saw that they were rapidly approaching the airport perimeter fence. She remembered the captain saying, “hold on,” as the airplane ran off the runway and closed her eyes and tried to brace for the impact as the airplane headed toward the building.

    The pilots were initially trapped in their seats by wreckage and, therefore, were unable to open the main cabin door promptly after the accident. The cabin aide failed to open the main cabin door; therefore, a passenger rotated the door handle and, with another passenger, pushed and kicked the door open. All of the airplane occupants successfully evacuated the airplane.

    The full Accident Report is here.


     During the evening of 22 October 1962, a Northwest Airlines DC7 carrying 95 passengers and 7 crew members aboard was flying from Tacoma, Washington to Anchorage, Alaska.  Whilst cruising at 20,000’, one engine lost power and the captain elected to ditch. 

    Detailed preparations were carried out during the next 45 minutes.  Twenty eight passengers were moved from the front rows.  All passengers and flight attendants donned life preservers.  The children, in special preservers, were distributed strategically in the cabin to optimize the availability of assistance in evacuating them.  Seat backs were raised;  the passengers told to remove all sharp objects from their persons.  These, along with loose objects such as food trays, armrests and carry-on baggage were stowed so as not to impede evacuation.  Passengers were rehearsed in folding their arms and lowering their heads into pillows, blankets or coats in their laps and told to do this on signal, just prior to shutdown.  Passengers sitting near the emergency exits were told how to open the exits and how to launch the life rafts.  Passengers were cautioned not to take any emergency action until advised. Rafts were moved to the exits and their static lines secured to nearby seats. Having informed the flight crew that all was ready, the steward used the public address system to tell the passengers to assume ditching positions and remain that way until told to get up. 

    The aircraft ditched at approximately 9pm in Sitka Sound about a mile off Biorka Island.  Water contact was smooth and the aircraft slowed and floated high in a calm sea, with no visible damage other than bent propeller blades.  Water temp was 13⁰C and air temp 11⁰C.  The crew immediately began launching the life rafts and assisting passengers into them; only a few persons were immersed in water.  Water depth in the cabin rose to about 2 feet, but the aircraft did not sink rapidly.  Within 5 minutes of ditching, all the occupants were in rafts; only 1 did not have a crew member in command.  Within another 20 minutes, all had been transferred to a launch and then to a coastguard cutter, both standing by after being summoned by the aircraft captain before ditching.  All 102 occupants were immediately taken to hospital for observation; none was seriously injured.  The aircraft took 24 mins to sink. 

    The report from the civil aeronautics board described the ditching and evacuation as an outstanding feat and attributed its success to several factors: virtually ideal conditions of wind and sea, crew familiarity with ditching procedures and ample time to ready the flotation equipment and passengers.




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