In Case of Emergency, Get Off the Damn Plane

“In case of emergency, please take as much time as necessary to gather all of your carry-on luggage from beneath your seat as well as anything you may have previously stored in the overhead bins, being absolutely certain to render the main aisle completely impassable in the process, before leisurely making your way to the nearest exit with your bulky, aisle-obstructing personal items. Oh, and be careful when opening the overhead compartments as contents may have shifted slightly during our fiery crash landing…,”

Said no flight attendant ever.

As a person that loves aviation and even more accurately so the people of aviation who call the skies their home, I cannot reiterate enough how incredibly important safety procedures are when you step onto an airplane and how thoroughly maddening it is that so many people don’t feel obligated to follow them, as though they are merely vague suggestions which only apply to others. Those rules and regulations do not exist as an inconvenient nuisance designed specifically to ruin your otherwise perfect day; they are there to keep you (and the aircraft’s crew) safe and to provide the best possible rate of survival in case of unthinkable circumstances. Because, as much as we all hate to think or talk about it, when you hurl a 40- to 50,000 pound, man-made chunk of jet-fuel laden metal into the sky, every now and then the unthinkable can and does happen.

We’ve seen it.

Today as I watched the horrifying video footage from the fiery crash of the Russian-made Aeroflot and subsequent evacuation this week in Moscow (major props to those pilots for getting that fiery bird onto the ground at all, by the way), something incomprehensible immediately stuck out to me. It always does.

People carrying baggage. A lot of people carrying a lot of baggage.

Every single time you see a video of an emergency plane evacuation, there they are – person after infuriating person jumping ship, lugging along their giant purses, large suitcases (I know that wasn’t tucked up under the seat in front of you), overstuffed backpacks, and infinite other personal items along with them.

Experts say the trend of passengers grabbing their bags in an emergency is one of the greatest dilemmas facing cabin crew and airlines. Picture: AFP
**photo credit AFP

Wait, what!? Soooo let me get this straight…the plane just slammed into the ground at an incomprehensibly high rate of speed and is [in this case definitely] on fire, terrified screams and lung-choking smoke are saturating the cabin, the flight attendant is telling you to evacuate immediately (because apparently the above circumstantial evidence doesn’t make that quite clear enough already for some people), and you take time out to stop and search for your man purse under the seat or the industrial strength hairdryer which you earlier stuffed in the overhead bin? And of course, in so-doing, you are blocking other passengers from being able to safely and quickly exit the damaged aircraft. No, no, to the NO! It’s absolute insanity to the infinite power! It makes me unequivocally crazy.

As if that is not bad enough, we now have to factor in every Tom, Dick, and Harry’s inexplicable need to be the next big YouTube one-hit viral sensation (it’s not that great, I promise) regardless of the ramifications on anyone else. So, in the middle of the ensuing chaos and despite the desperate need of people all around them, out come the phones with the video rolling. People screaming in terror as they die a gruesome, fiery death? Cool! This one will be viral for sure!

It’s downright disgusting, and it makes me sick.

I am increasingly convinced that the rapid spread of technology has destroyed some of our critical thinking brain cells. We’re becoming a bunch of tech zombies who cannot pry our flaccid faces from the screens long enough to really see what is going on around us. We live, and apparently die, by the screen.

Must. Take. Video. Must. Take. Video.

Jet fuel is combustible. Shocking, I know. As we witnessed this week, it can take less than a minute for a plane to become fully engulfed in a raging inferno. Every second counts. Even if you don’t see the flame, don’t assume it’s not there.

In case of emergency, get off the damn plane! Do not pass go; do not collect…anything!

In case of emergency, get off the damn plane! Do not pass go; do not collect...anything! Click To Tweet

Your one and only priority in case of an inflight emergency is getting you and all other human beings to safety as quickly as possible and then subsequently tending to the injured and traumatized. Not gathering things. Not rolling film. Not updating your social media pages. Not taking selfies in front of the burning aircraft. Ugh.

One can’t help but wonder how many of those 41 people who died in this most recent Moscow incident might actually still be alive had all passengers aboard correctly listened to and followed emergency protocol and disembarked with utmost urgency instead of wasting precious seconds filming the chaos within as well as retrieving personal items, inevitably blockading the narrow aisles with their replaceable stuff while irreplaceable lives perished somewhere behind them. Maybe none. Maybe some. Maybe all.

It’s a harrowing thought.

Some aviation writers and experts are calling the chance that more lives would have been saved with a quicker evac ‘very likely’. Perhaps time and investigation will be telling. Most likely, we will never know just how many could have been saved. All I know for certain is that a plethora of suitcases and bags made it off that plane and 41 people did not – fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, friends…gone. We have bartered human life for stuff.

Now, in all fairness and because I always try (admittedly with varying success) to see both sides of the coin, I instigated an interesting discussion with another PW today about whether there was any possibility whatsoever that people become so traumatized in such situations that they simply have no idea what they are actually doing and thus display such irrational behavior, or whether we are so ingrained as a society with a cultural selfishness that we cannot fathom putting the wellbeing of anyone above the desires of oneself and thus readily choose ‘things’ over humanity with cognitive coherence.

Your one and only priority in case of an inflight emergency is getting you and all other human beings to safety as quickly as possible. Not gathering things. Not rolling film. Not updating your social media pages. Click To Tweet

It’s kind of hard to say and involves a lot of speculation. I guess we can never be truly privy to the details of what goes through the brains of those aboard in the exact moment of decisiveness, and I really hope never to find out through personal experience. I am willing to bet there’s perhaps a little of both entities involved, the latter likely fueling the former to some great degree. However, looking at the general and disturbing trending of today’s world, it also seems quite likely that selfishness is indeed taking the far more predominant role in our circumstantial choices as a societal whole; and thus, rears it’s ugly head in moments such as these. When we are running on pure adrenaline, we will fall back upon our innermost, primal traits of character. Therefore, if you are filming terrified people screaming instead of helping them out or grabbing bags instead of hands… I’m sorry, but I do think it says a lot about who you are at your core and what you value most. It doesn’t paint a very pretty picture.

Hey, 41 people died terrible deaths on that plane this week, but at least you still have your designer purse and a cool video of people screaming in terror as they die to share on Facebook! Congratufreakulations. You must be so very, very proud.

Truth be told, I simply cannot wrap my head around what prompts these actions, but these are the kinds of actions that really make me want to punch someone in the face. I know that is sort of wrong (but admit it, some of you feel like that too). I’m fatally flawed like that, but at least I’m being real about it. I’m terribly sorry for what you experienced; I really, really am. It sucks. No one should have to face that kind of terror. But people died in that plane, and I’m rightfully angry that your bag made it out and they didn’t. I just am. It doesn’t at all help my contrition that you have a neat little video of it all going down.

I personally couldn’t care less for whatever tangibles I brought onto that plane with me when lives (my own included) are on the line, no matter how terrified, traumatized, bloody, shaken, or stricken I may be and no matter how ‘valuable’ the items in question are. At no time in the history of history has a piece of luggage been more precious in my mind than a human life.

Because, in my little world, people over stuff. Always.

Look, these are my friends and family up there on those planes. Their jobs in the case of emergency are to make sure you get off first. Do you hear me?? They are not allowed to evacuate until you do, and I choose them over any stupid Gucci bag or TPS report every day of the week. But even more so than that, they are also the stuff heroes are made of. Their hearts in the case of emergency are to make sure you get off that plane. I know my husband. If he’s riding anywhere in that aircraft and something like this happens, he’s probably not coming home to me and the children because he’s going to be pulling people out without regard for his own wellbeing until every last person is safe or he perishes with the ship. In fact, he’s already made sure that I clearly understand and accept this aviation truth. I have a love-hate relationships with that knowledge. So yeah, when I see you lugging your suitcase out of a burning plane it pisses me off. Royally. And when I see you taking videos instead of saving lives, I want to punch you. Sorry, not sorry.

Safety in the air matters immensely. All rules and regulations of the air are written in blood and exist for a purpose – to protect you and everyone else who is on that aircraft. You don’t like the rules? Boohoo! Cry me a river; go rent a car. Harsh? Maybe. But these types of behaviors have a price tag of lost life, and that is an unacceptable premium to pay just to ego stroke individual sensitivities. If you don’t want to follow the rules, don’t fly. It’s as simply and unapologetically abrasive as that.

To every passenger who will ever again step foot upon a plane, please, I am begging you…

In case of emergency, leave your crap on the plane. ALL of it. I know that your ‘whole life’ is on that phone. But no, it’s not, really. I know that your Aunt Sally’s genuine leather makeup bag is priceless. But no, it’s not really.

Because nothing, and I do mean nothing, you own is worth the cost of a human life.

Nothing, and I do mean nothing, you own is worth the cost of a human life. Click To Tweet

Even a few seconds’ delay while you attempt to grab that oh-so-important paperwork from the overhead or block the aisle with your bag may be the difference between life and death for you and/or others. Just get out of the damn plane. Stuff can be replaced; life cannot. You don’t get to decide how ‘serious’ or ‘real’ an evacuation is. There’s no such thing as a ‘good’ plane crash. If the aircraft is being evacuated, it’s serious. Period. If the flight attendants or pilots tell you to evacuate, it’s real. Period. You don’t get to question it. Get off the plane immediately and take everyone you can with you. Because luggage should never, ever make it off the plane when people don’t.

In case of emergency, get off the damn plane. Period. End of story.

~Angelia (a Pilot Wife who is tired of people dying)

**header photo credit 2015

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6 thoughts on “In Case of Emergency, Get Off the Damn Plane”

    1. thepilotwifelife

      Thank you for the the feedback. Glad you enjoyed it. I believe you are looking at the website copyright at the footer of the site. The Pilot Wife Life was established in 2016, and thus that is the date of the website. I could change it, I suppose. But as it is still applicable to the website, it never seemed urgent.

  1. There should be a latch on the compartments above the seats that the attendants have to pull/push something to open them all. Then they tell people in a emergency evacuation they will not be opened. “So don’t even try or think about saving something”. “Just Exit” !!

  2. I had the same thought as Dottie! As much as I fly, these situations completely terrify me. I can’t even fathom what was going through these peoples’ heads.
    Very nice post, thank you.

  3. Erik Latranyi

    They had the same problem on the USAirways flight with Sullenberger that landed on the Hudson River…..many people were trying to take their personal belongings out onto the wings of a floating plane!

    This happens in almost every crash and people are totally oblivious to it.

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