Japan Airways’ profitable evacuation highlights flight attendants’ security roles

As photographs and video from the collision between two plane at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (HND) started circulating on Tuesday, it was instantly clear {that a} uncommon however catastrophic catastrophe had occurred.

Nearly concurrently, as information unfold that the entire 376 passengers and crew aboard Japan Airways (JAL) flight 516 had survived — with solely a dozen or so minor accidents reported, issues like sprains and bumps — it grew to become clear that one thing akin to a miracle had taken place.

5 Japanese service members aboard the opposite plane concerned within the runway crash, a Japanese Coast Guard DHC Sprint 8 en path to ship help to earthquake victims on Japan’s northwest coast, have been killed, whereas a sixth crew member was reportedly in crucial situation.

Nonetheless, the shortage of fatalities or severe accidents amongst these on the bigger industrial plane, an Airbus A350-900 that went up in flames following the crash, was reflective of a long time of developments in security design and procedures.

It additionally highlighted the first position of flight attendants: guaranteeing passengers’ security throughout emergencies.

“Flight attendants world wide are tremendous happy with the JAL crew,” Sara Nelson, head of the Affiliation of Flight Attendants-CWA union, informed TPG on Wednesday. “Flight attendants are strolling somewhat taller at the moment.”

Though a typical a part of the inflight security briefing reminds passengers that flight attendants are totally on board for security, cabin crew members usually discover themselves working in opposition to the notion that their major job is to offer inflight service, Nelson stated, which is definitely the secondary position.

“Historically, the position has been outlined as one thing else,” Nelson stated. “However that is actually why flight attendants are on the aircraft.”

“If you wish to speak in regards to the worth of a flight attendant, simply take a look at this incident,” she added.

The Federal Aviation Administration adopts stringent flight attendant staffing necessities to make it possible for there are sufficient cabin crew members to help passengers throughout an emergency, that are mirrored by most certifying aviation regulators. A minimum of one flight attendant is required on flights with between 19 and 50 passenger seats, with an extra flight attendant required for each 50 seats.

A placard indicating the minimal variety of flight attendants required on a United Airways A321neo. DAVID SLOTNICK/THE POINTS GUY

“Flight attendant minimal staffing relies on evacuation requirements solely,” Nelson stated. “That is the one regulated cause that we’re on board, although we, after all, produce other duties.”

Because the JAL flight careened to a cease on the runway, hearth was spreading throughout the surface of the aircraft, and smoke was beginning to fill the cabin, in response to varied experiences from passengers, together with movies and photographs taken contained in the aircraft in the course of the preliminary moments of the crash and posted on-line.

Airframes and cabins are designed so {that a} aircraft might be absolutely evacuated inside 90 seconds underneath managed take a look at circumstances, even with some doorways blocked.

The evacuation of Flight 516 took longer, video exhibits, highlighting previous criticism that the assessments don’t mirror real-world circumstances. As an illustration, laws first launched in late 2022 within the U.S. by Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Tammy Baldwin (D-IL) would require the FAA to check evacuation occasions utilizing a extra reasonable setting (Nelson described the laws as “nonetheless desperately wanted.”)

5 of the eight emergency exit doorways have been inaccessible as a result of harm and hearth, in response to the Wall Avenue Journal. The plane was pitched downward after the nosegear collapsed, making it more durable for passengers to maneuver and for flight attendants to get the doorways open. Because of the poor visibility from smoke, hearth and the truth that it was darkish out, flight attendants couldn’t open the doorways till speaking with pilots to verify which doorways have been secure and that the aircraft had stopped, the airline informed WSJ.

All through the method of opening the doorways and thru the evacuation, flight attendants have been clear and communicative, some passengers stated, serving to make sure the cabin stayed calm and orderly.

“The cabin crew have been very skilled, however one may see even of their eyes that they have been scared,” Anton Deibe, a passenger from Sweden, informed the New York Instances.

“Though I heard screams, principally individuals have been calm and did not rise up from their seats however saved sitting and ready,” passenger Aruto Iwama informed The Guardian in an interview. “That is why I believe we have been in a position to escape easily.”


In the meantime, varied security designs saved the fireplace contained to the surface of the plane for a couple of minutes, shopping for the time wanted for everybody on board to flee.

Because the cabin public handle system failed, flight attendants used megaphones to speak and transfer the evacuation alongside, ensuring that passengers did not dissipate worthwhile time to take carry-on baggage — one thing that has plagued airways throughout previous emergencies.

Minutes after the evacuation, the fireplace unfold all through your entire airplane, leaving nothing however a charred husk remaining. It was the primary Airbus A350 to be misplaced in an accident for the reason that aircraft kind entered service in 2015.

The reason for the crash is underneath investigation. Early proof suggests that the Coast Guard airplane had not been cleared to enter the runway and that the JAL flight had been given permission to land.

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