Perhaps Try Again

There has been all kinds of misinformation and bad reporting with this missing AirAsia plane, but I think we have a winner for the most incorrect press report thus far.


Hmm. Looks like a military helicopter to me. The fact that the press gets plane types wrong is something we Aviation Geeks are well used to, but I have never before seen them mistake a helicopter for a plane. This is a new level of wrong.

I have been nice and removed the name and twitter ID of this press person though others may not be so nice.

Some might see this post as a bit petty. While it could certainly be interpreted that way, I want to make the reason I am posting it clear.

When reporting anything, the press should TRY at least to get the things they say correct. When they cannot get something as simple as a helicopter VS a plane right, how can anyone trust the other words they say?

It will take time to find out what has actually happened here. In the meantime, this is my advice to you –

Take any reports re what has happened to this flight as pure speculation. Was it weather, was it X, was it Y, was it Z? We have zero idea and anyone claiming otherwise you should treat with enormous suspicion. The only fact we know presently is that the plane lost contact with Air Traffic Control (ATC) and was no longer to be found on radar.

Ignore reports of the plane being denied to climb to a higher altitude. If the pilot had a reason to climb and he communicated to ATC that it was necessary and urgent, the request would have been allowed even if other traffic had to be re-routed as a result. I have listened to ATC scanners for years. Planes often make requests to ATC that are declined for a multitude of reasons. ATC have a job to do. If an emergency is declared their job is to assist the pilot to get safely on the ground. If an emergency is not declared, then their job is to manage the airspace. A request from a pilot to fly at a certain altitude or track is simply that – a request.

Ignore reports of “wreckage” found until you actually see it with your own eyes. We’ve been here and done this before with MH370. So much “wreckage” was found and none of it turned out to be related to MH370.

If you are looking for actual info, my advice is to forget the general media. They are clueless when it comes to aviation. You can try these sources –

There is a good article from Australian Aviation here if you are unfamiliar with the story thus far – Indonesia AirAsia A320 missing 24 hours (last updated 1040am AEDST)

The PPrune Thread

Aviation Journalist John Walton on Twitter. John often links to some other reliable sources as well, and if you have any questions he will try to answer them.

Aviation is difficult at the best of times. When you are taking people up into the air, a place we were never designed to go, there are always risks – as there are risks in anything that we do in life. Things can and do go wrong, people are lost, and that is utterly heartbreaking for their friends and family.

I cannot imagine how the families of MH370 must feel, so many months have passed and still that plane has not been found. I hope for a different outcome with QZ8501. Of course my present hope is that the plane landed somewhere and everyone is ok. The more time that passes, the less likely that hoped for outcome seems. :(

When things do go wrong in aviation, it would be wonderful if the media could report actual facts rather than hours upon hours of endless speculation, just because they have air time to fill.

I have written about air safety previously – Plane Safety – a must read for all – What Not To Wear In The Event Of A Plane Crash.

Fail Whale, In The News, life lessons, plane safety, things to remember

I thought I was going to die

You probably heard about the Qantas plane that recently experienced explosive decompression. In case you didn’t, here’s a news story about it. Over the past day or so you probably saw headlines like –

Qantas boss ‘horrified’ by hole
‘Massive’ hole in Qantas jet
Qantas jet was ‘rust bucket’
Qantas flight plunges 20,000ft
Hole ripped as Qantas jet dives

The most stupid of which being the last one, because the hole was ripped first, and the plane dove as a result of the hole. So why did it dive? Because the pilots cannot rely on the passengers sitting behind them to actually put their oxygen masks on, and if the plane did not dive the passengers would all lose consciousness within 75 seconds.

There have been times in a normal flight when there has been nothing wrong with the plane and oxygen masks have dropped. The passengers tend to look at them curiously. They don’t make any effort to put them on.

There is very little oxygen at 30,000 feet, certainly not enough to sustain life. It is also extremely cold at that flight level and hypothermia becomes a possible problem if the plane stays at that level for too long.

They have to dive – they have no choice, and the pilots are trained to do it. There is a risk that the plane might break up if it is damaged too badly by whatever has happened, but they have to weigh that risk against the risk of people dying from lack of oxygen and warmth.

Headlines like those seen above make me angry. In fact it makes me angry that the first thought anyone would have in this situation would be “I’m going to die”. Thinking this is an absolute waste of time and the only reason people think it is because they do not know better.

If people took the time to EDUCATE themselves before setting foot on a plane, they would know exactly why the plane went into a dive, and they would be sitting there thinking “We’re diving so people will be able to breathe – we’re diving so we won’t die. What can I do now to increase my chances of surviving this?” If newspapers stepped away from the sensational headlines, they could write about why the pilots put the plane into a dive and then anyone reading that would be educated.

I’ve written about plane safety before and the following posts are something you can read if you want to educate yourself before flying –

Plane Safety – A Must Read For All

What Not To Wear In The Event Of A Plane Crash

I once went scuba diving on the Gold Coast. Normally before you can dive you have to do a course but they have worked something out so you can try a dive without all that. Even so, before they let me get in the water, they made me sit through a lecture that seemed like it went forever where they explained to me all the various ways that I could die!

Things like.. If I breathed too fast. If I didn’t take enough breaths. If I went down too far. If I didn’t stay with my buddy. If I went up too quickly. They had a paper we had to sign which said that the risks had been explained to us clearly – and it probably said we wouldn’t hold them liable if we did die, it was a fair while ago now.

But there’s no lecture before you get on a plane. There’s no paper to sign saying you know the risks. There’s not anything to sign saying you listened to the safety briefing or took a look at your safety card. It is up to YOU to do it. If you don’t do it then you *are* putting your life at risk in the event of an emergency.

All you need to get on a plane is a ticket and some ID (and for overseas, a passport). We’ve made plane travel so easy – and so safe – that people consider it like getting on a bus. They don’t worry about safety when they get on a bus – nor do they worry about it when they get on a plane – but they should. They don’t listen to the safety briefings – they read a book or the paper.

I won’t get into the sensationalist aspect of these headlines – the use of scary words, the general stupidity of the journalists involved – even though there is an entire post in that. What I will say is that the press are missing a chance to genuinely educate people on this important topic. So we have to do it ourselves. And you can help by linking to this (and the other two posts) to educate your readers. You can also stumble this post and the two others. Just think – you might save a life – or you might save someone from panic if they do ever find themselves in this kind of situation.

plane safety

Plane Safety – a must read for all.

Have you ever wondered why they bother to have a safety demonstration on the plane at all? A lot of people think ok, if the plane is going to crash what is the point of knowing any of these things. They’d rather skip the safety demonstration all together – for two reasons, one being the “It will never happen to me” attitude and one being that they find it annoying, repetitive and intrusive.

If you knew what I knew, you’d know watching that safety demonstration very closely might actually save your life. Not every incident on a plane is fatal. Incidents on a plane can *become* fatal if people haven’t been paying attention to the safety demo. Here’s a few things I think you should know. They may not be things you *want* to know, they may scare you a little. However being scared might make you a survivor instead of a statistic.

First of all, you need to know about hypoxia. At sea level there’s plenty of oxygen in the air. As you go up into the atmosphere, two things happen – it becomes a LOT colder, and there is less oxygen. Where commercial planes generally fly is between 30,000-40,000 feet and they do this for a lot of technical reasons which I won’t bore you with here. They are able to do this because the cabin you are travelling in is pressurized.

The moment the plane doors shut, air is pumped into the cabin to increase the air pressure within the plane. That means you can safely breathe, and the air is kept warm, and the plane can safely fly at high altitude without killing you. You may notice you have to swallow in order to make your ears pop.

However in air travel, things can and do go wrong. If they did happen to go wrong, you need to know this – at 30,000 feet, you have approximately 45-75 seconds to get on oxygen before you lose consciousness and will be unable to put your mask on. At 40,000 feet, you have between 10-30 seconds to put your mask on.

The safety demonstrations try oh so gently to not scare you, but in effect what they do is take away any urgency you should feel. There have been times when the masks have fallen from the ceilings in commercial jets and the passengers just sat there looking at them. Nobody made an effort to put their mask on. Lucky them, because in those cases there wasn’t anything wrong with the plane, but they *could* have died if there had been. So, that makes safety lesson number one –


It’s better to look a little silly than to be very dead, would we all agree?

So why would the masks drop down, I hear you ask? What’s going to be wrong with the plane? Best case scenario is that something is wrong with the planes cabin pressurization system. Worst case scenario is that there has been an explosive decompression of some kind. That could be anything from a small hole in the plane to the plane missing an entire section.

If there has been an explosive decompression, there will be a fine mist in the air for a short time, things will be flying around in the cabin. You may experience intense pain in your ears especially if you have a bad cold or flu the pain caused by this cannot be described, it will make it impossible to think. Anything or anyone not tied down is going to fly around and might even get pushed out through the hole. So that makes safety lesson number two –


It’s just good sense to do that and not just because of the possibility of explosive decompression, there could be turbulence, anything can happen. I’ve seen people thrown out of their seats during *taxi* from the runway to the terminal because the plane had to brake suddenly. That could end in tears – or even a broken neck. Have you been on a plane and heard all that seatbelt un-doing right after the plane lands? So that makes safety lesson number three –

DO NOT UNDO YOUR SEATBELT UNTIL THE PLANE HAS STOPPED AND THE PILOT HAS TURNED OFF THE SEATBELT SIGN (unless you are being ordered to evacuate the aircraft by the flight attendants).

You’re not going anywhere until the plane stops anyway, having your seatbelt undone won’t make you get off the plane any faster, so why take the risk?

If something did happen, the amount of time you’d be in shock because you were in “it won’t happen to me mode” could be the amount of time it takes to kill you. Many passengers die because they sat in stunned silence while the plane filled with smoke. It’s almost like they gave up – they thought well, the plane is crashing, that’s it, I’m dead, there’s no way I can survive this. People can and do survive. Safety rule number four is important and simple.


There are a lot of good aviation safety books out there. However there is one book which I believe should be on your bookshelf. It is called “Black Box” by Nicholas Faith. There are many excellent lessons to be learned from this book, even by non-aviation fans.

I know a fair bit about flying. I have absolutely no fear of it. What I fear is that the people around me aren’t going to have paid attention to the safety demonstrations, and they’re going to slow me down to the point I can’t get off the aircraft. Passengers have been known to try and collect their hand luggage in the event of an evacuation.

You know something? If you’re in front of me, and you’re trying to get your hand luggage out of the overhead locker, and we’ve been told to evacuate, I’m going to punch you, push you or KICK you, hard. I’m going to get you the F*CK out of my way, and I don’t care who you are or how important your stuff seems to you. You may be more interested in your laptop than saving your life, but I want to live, so get out of my way, get out of everyone else’s way, have some respect for the lives of others. Safety rule five therefore is –


And PS – even if you don’t have travel insurance that covers everything you have on the plane, if your stuff is destroyed the airline will usually compensate you. And if you’re dead, you can’t use your stuff, so leave it where it is and get out of the aircraft. NOW.

I will leave you with this final thought and a few videos. On August the 22nd, 1985, a British Airtours Boeing 737-200 lined up for take off at Manchester airport. 130 passengers were on board. As the plane gained speed, there was a loud thump heard. The pilot thought a tyre had burst, so he aborted the take off, slowed the aircraft, and turned off the runway. He did not know the plane was actually on fire because parts of the engine had disintegrated and been thrown through the wing fuel tank. The evacuation was more difficult because most of the exits on the side of the plane that was on fire could not be used. 55 people died.

What surprised most people about this incident was that the plane never crashed. It never got off the ground at all. It was at an airport with an excellent fire fighting team who trained constantly and who arrived at the aircraft within moments, literally, of the fire being reported. This incident was one of the major factors in changing many things in aviation, from the materials used in building planes becoming less flammable to aisles and exits being made wider.

What does an evacuation of a big plane look like? Chaos really. This video shows the new Airbus A380 being evacuated. 873 people in 77 seconds. Can you imagine how much slower it would be if people were trying to get their stuff?
Chuck Yeager talking about another pilot experiencing hypoxia and how he helped save the pilot’s life.

Air Force Pilot undergoing hypoxia training

Further reading on plane crashes and how to prepare for them and potentially survive them – (all are PDF, so be patient while your browser loads them)
Am I Alive? One flight attendant’s heart breaking story of what happened when the plane crashed. I recommend you read it but beware, it pulls no punches and is disturbing in some ways. Tissues may come in handy, it sure brought tears to my eyes.
Training Saves LivesAnother flight attendant’s story.
United Flight 11 Explosive decompression and quite a lot of missing plane as well as 9 missing passengers.

United Flight 232 A long read but well worth it. Captain Al Haynes is one person I greatly admire, and you’ll see why if you read that.

You should also check out my previous post – what not to wear on a plane.

plane safety, planes

What not to wear.

I’m sure many of you heard of todays plane crash in Indonesia.


It’s an unpleasant fact of life that sometimes, planes do fall out of the sky. Which is why anytime I go to get on one, I am constantly amazed at how unprepared people are for the possibility of what might happen. They ignore the safety briefing, don’t even bother to look for the nearest exit, and *worst* of all, wear things which are not appropriate for the occasion.

The reason I mention this is, I just saw footage of the crash scene with a woman clearly injured, trying to walk in heels and a mini-skirt. Not a good idea!

So, a few fashion don’ts for when you next fly..


This outfit will mean you have trouble getting to the exit door, which will mean those behind you might not make it to the door at all. Nice for street-walking (literally perhaps) but no good for flying. Heels will hinder your progress. Put them in the suitcase, don’t wear them in flight.


Pantihose! OH NO! Major plane fashion faux pas! The fibers will melt in a fire and stick to your skin, which is not a good look and certainly would cause a lot of pain. Just say no to pantyhose when flying.


Going on a beach holiday? Save the beach dressing for when you arrive. Wearing something like this on a plane will get you talked about, and more than likely a large percentage of burns to much of your body in the event of a crash. Not a wise choice.

Leave your flip flops in your luggage, because in the *very rare but occasionally it does happen* instance that you have to traverse broken metal and things on fire, your feet will appreciate that you chose to wear a real pair of shoes.

So what should you wear?

Covered, closed, comfortable shoes, preferably leather. I like Doc Martens myself.

Comfortable pants which are easy to move in.

No flammable fabrics – though all fabrics will become flammable in the kinds of fires you will see in planes, some fabrics are more likely to catch fire than others.

Denim jeans (not too tight, don’t restrict your movement) is the better choice.

A long sleeve shirt to protect your arms from burns. Wool is one of the least flammable materials. Cotton is a good choice too.

The idea is, to get out of the plane before you have to deal with the fire. If you are wearing sensible clothes which you can move in, its more likely you’ll be able to manage this task. Knowing where the nearest exits are will also help. But if you are injured and can’t move, wearing clothes that will protect you will be a good idea too.

Anyway, that’s just a few thoughts you might want to consider when next choosing what to wear when you fly.

Save the fashion for the catwalk, put it in your suitcase.

When you fly, dress to survive.

Even though 99.9% of flights make it safely to their destination, if your flight happens to be one where you do need to evacuate, you will appreciate dressing to survive instead of dressing for fashion.

Fashion, life lessons, plane safety, things to remember, what not to do

A little plane stuff.

The picture of the day box which I recently added to the sidebar has this shot as today’s picture of the day. What a gorgeous picture. It might show some of the non-plane-enthusiast people reading this just what the attraction is. ;) The 747 is my favourite plane.

I’m re-reading Black Box at the moment and something that I always find interesting is a lot of plane crashes have between 1-10 people who survive when nobody else does. One such accident was the worst single plane accident ever – JAL 123 – which involved a special version of the Boeing 747 that was made specifically for Japan’s short haul flights between airports. It carried 524 people – a normal 747 usually carries less than 417 passengers. The plane struck Mount Fuji and impacted the mountain, destroying 3,000 trees, and yet 4 people survived it. One of them was an off duty JAL stewardess who was sitting right at the back of the plane.

Another amazing story of survival was – AA 965 – where four people and a dog in the cargo compartment survived after the plane impacted with a mountain near Cali in Columbia. The dog was re-named “Milagro” for miracle.

A very old story of survival was the Stinson crash in 1937. Three men survived but one died while walking to get help.

Now to change topic slightly and most of these links are to PDF files so don’t worry when your computer does that stop and think thing ;) – If you think flight attendants are brainless drink servers, you might want to read this but be warned it is a slightly graphic tale. You can also read this – training does save lives. And finally, before you travel anywhere again, this article tells you why you should NEVER EVER ignore the safety demonstration.

plane safety

If you have a little spare time

You might want to read this very interesting transcript of a speech given by Captain Al Haynes. The crash at Sioux City (more info here and here) seemed not survivable when you saw it happen however thanks to a lot of preparation and the skill of the crew and a DC-10 instructor pilot who happened to be a passenger on the flight, 184 passengers and 10 crew members survived.

I had the strangest dream last night – I had this lizard which was injured and I had found it and healed it’s injuries, and I was supposed to make it this soup of carrots, lettuce and other fruits and vegetables but I couldn’t find any fruit and veg at the supermarket. Very odd.

dreams, plane safety, planes