Anyone who flies a lot knows the safety videos and demonstrations given at the start of the flight. We can probably recite it ourselves (except that because almost all my trips use the same airline, I do get a bit of a jolt when travelling on a different one and the words are in a slightly different order.)
But a recent flight showed me just how unnecessary this demo is.
I was on a journey from Dallas to Heathrow, and after about 2 hours the captain announced that he had to divert to Chicago because of a navigational system problem. And because of “standard regulations” we would have to prepare for an emergency landing. There was no hint given by the pilot as to why this needed to be done, as he tried to make it sound like a boring piece of routine, but it’s fairly obvious – landing heavy with much more fuel than planned may require more braking, which is known to potentially blow the tyres and/or cause fires with the brakepads. And if that happens you do need to know how to evacuate fast.
And it was this point the REAL safety briefing started.
I was sitting in the emergency exit row, and got a personal briefing with the flight attendant reading paragraphs out of the manual at me. For example, how I was meant to hold back any stampeding passengers while she opened the door. Everyone was also told to remove glasses, take off any spiky shoes, and put everything away.
There was plenty of time before the landing so I also made sure I had the 4 essentials in my pockets – keys, wallet, passport and phone. If you do have to use the slides, there’s no opportunity to take bags but only what you have on you at the time.
Although we also were told about brace positions, (and with no seats in front of me that was going to be an ankle-grabbing situation) there was no call from the cockpit to do that when we did eventually land. In fact, it was one of the softest landings. The pilot seemed to barely touch the brakes on ORD’s long runway. Some passengers applauded as soon as the plane touched down, but I told my neighbour to wait until we’d actually stopped and the firetrucks that chased us down the runway had confirmed the plane was not alight.
Everything turned out fine, apart from being 3 hours late when we did eventually get to Heathrow. But I did find it interesting how different the attitudes from the crew and the information given were for the truly routine briefing and the emergency.