Evacuating people from a plane 

Being on the plane home from Tenerife - or rather; being by the emergency exit on the plane home - reminded me of something from my youth.  Specifically the art of evacuation people from a plane.

In the house that I spent the majority of my first nine years of life my mum told me about what happened in an emergency on a plane.  Given that we moved before my 10th birthday, I could only have been a maximum of nine years old when this happened.

“They open up the emergency doors, auto-inflate an inflatable slide and then get everyone to slide down it”

I was horrified. Why would they do that? Surely that was more dangerous than anything?

“No, of course not,” mum explained, “the slide inflates and goes all the way from the aircraft door all the way to the ground.”

That only led to more questions. What if there was an emergency at sea?

“the slide is inflatable, it will simply go to the surface of the sea.”

My mind boggled.

How did they know how long the slide needed to be? How could they be sure it reached far enough? How on earth was it safe for people to simply slide from the plane down to wherever the slide finished?

Just how desperate a situation would you need to be in to consider such a thing?

My questions were left unanswered as mum simply insisted that she was telling the truth and wouldn’t discuss it any further.

Clearing up the misconception

There was no Internet back in those days, so I couldn’t jump online and check. I could ask my friends in the playground but that would risk ridicule or bullying, so I simply put it to the back of my mind.

It wasn’t until many, many years later when I saw news footage of people being evacuated from a plane by the very same inflatable slides mum had spoken of that it all slotted into place.

Evacuating people from a plane - Image taken from smithsonianmag.com with thanks

Evacuating people from a plane - Image taken from smithsonianmag.com with thanks

She’d left out one tiny detail when telling me about it which caused all of the confusion.

They only ever evacuate the planes when they are on the ground or, at worst, landed at sea.

They don’t simply open the doors mid-flight, throw a 35,000-foot long slide from the plane and watch people slide to the bottom.

Thanks, mum.

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by DannyUK

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