The Economist this week has a very interesting and entertaining article on what a truthful in-flight safety announcement would sound like (see here). We all have heard hundreds of times the safety announcement at the beginning of a flight. I often pay no attention to it, although I sometimes wonder if I have missed something new and crucial. But really, it is always about the same thing. What is annoying is not so much that it is repeated in every flight (they have to do so in order to inform passengers including those that have never flown before), but that a lot of it is rather misleading.
My favorite one is the life-jacket under the seat. As anyone who has done some sailing knows—especially blue-water sailing in the Pacific or the Atlantic Ocean—the chances for anyone to survive more than a few minutes in these waters without a special wet-suit (such as the one they wear during the Volvo Ocean Race but even then that’s not enough—check out what they wear here) is ZERO. So when you look at the life-jacket they give you, it would be completely useless in case of a water landing. Moreover, as The Economist points out, in the history of aviation, “the number of wide-bodied aircraft that have made successful landings on water is zero.” While this does not mean that none could occur in the future, the chances of a successful water landing are probably super small, which adds to the minuscule chances of surviving in the water with your super tiny life-jacket (even if the detachable inflatable slides operate).
Another myth that The Economist debunks is that of cell phones. They have no effect on the aircraft’s navigation systems. This is what I heard from some pilot too. As The Economist puts it: “if [cell phones] were really dangerous we would not allow them on board at all, if you think about it.”
The really important part of safety on board aircrafts is the seat-belt. Turbulence can cause physical harm and it is important to keep the seat belt fastened at all times. The announcement aboard Veritas Airways in The Economist says: “This is to protect you from the risk of clear-air turbulence, a rare but extremely nasty form of disturbance that can cause severe injury.” I have never experienced such a bad form of turbulence, but during my recent trip back from Auckland-NZ, the plane was hit by a lightning. While it didn’t jolt the plane, I know of cases where lightning has created severe jolting of the aircraft. And in those cases, you want to have your seat-belt on…