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Emergencies What Should The Captain Tell The Pax?  
User currently offlineJulesmusician From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Posted (9 years 3 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 3421 times:

Be interested to know what pilots should tell the pax in emergencies or difficult situations? I have been told that pilots must be totally honest or they open themselves up for all sorts of problems...but take an example of an engine failure mid flight - if you have a few more hours to fly should you tell the passengers and thereby worry them for those few hours or either not tell them anything or tell them something else happened? This assumes that the engine isn't on fire as they look out their windows!

Just interested as to whether sometimes pilots tell the passengers a "lighter" version of events?

J

21 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineKaddyuk From Wallis and Futuna, joined Nov 2001, 4126 posts, RR: 25
Reply 1, posted (9 years 3 weeks 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 3413 times:

I'm a great beliver of "Less is more"... Passengers (generally) have no clue how an aircraft operates and so telling them the problem can have an opposite to the desired effect of calming them.

I flew to CPH not just a few weeks ago and on engine start, a strong smell of fuel came into the cabin. A few passengers looked agitated at the smell of fuel. (i was jumpseating and so was stood up in the galley waiting for us to taxi). The flight attendent over the PA system announed that the smell of fuel was due to an engine not starting first time and that they were trying again. Making the passengers worry even more that there was something wrong with the aircraft. When actually in fact what the passengers were smelling wasnt fuel, but exhaust gas that had been sucked into the engine and then into the air conditioning system. Although unpleasent not a problem at all. The cabin crew didnt help the passengers in any way what so ever...

Another time was on approach into TFS with FlyJet, the Hydraulic Demand Pump came on as the pilot lowered the flaps and dropped the landing gear at the same time... A Big whirring noise was heard... the cabin crew came on and explained that it was a hydraulic pump used as a back up when the main hydraulic system gets low on pressure, the pump comes online to assist it... which is true, but still got a few passengers looking more worried because they thought the hydraulics were broken...

I dont think any passengers should be told about anything... Ignorance is bliss they say



Whoever said "laughter is the best medicine" never had Gonorrhea
User currently offlineSlamClick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 68
Reply 2, posted (9 years 3 weeks 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 3402 times:

If something other-than-normal is going on, I might advise the passengers to expect something different. For example when we are about to be de-iced I'll tell them they will hear the spray hitting the airplane and they will smell a little of the glycol being picked up by the air conditioning system. That sort of thing.

In flight, if something happens that they are sure to notice, like a missed approach I'll talk to them as early as I can to reassure them.

I've lost engines and never told the passengers. If I don't need them to DO something I don't need them to KNOW something. If we are going to brace for the landing then they need to hear a calm voice up front telling them about it. If not, why get them worked up over something that is not going to have any effect on their lives. I've sat there and watched them walk up the jetway after an engine-out landing just happy to be somewhere. I won't rob them of that.

After one such, a passenger stuck his head in the cockpit and said "I heard the PTU cycling for about the last ten minutes." I 'fessed up, told him we'd lost one. He was okay with it. Some wouldn't be.

If I do need something of them, I'll tell them as much truth as they need. I acknowledge my role as salesman for the Company and though it takes a backseat to my safety roles, I know I like being told the truth.

Maintenance delays - tough call. Tell them too long and fifty self-important junior Donald Trumps want to go back up into the terminal. Tell them thirty minutes and they start to fret at twenty nine. By forty five they all want off.



Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User currently offlineEMBQA From United States of America, joined Oct 2003, 9364 posts, RR: 11
Reply 3, posted (9 years 3 weeks 5 days 18 hours ago) and read 3379 times:

Quoting Kaddyuk (Reply 1):
Passengers (generally) have no clue how an aircraft operates and so telling them the problem can have an opposite to the desired effect of calming them.

No kidding..!! Just look at the hot start that Alaska Airlines 737 had earlier this week and the panic that caused.



"It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog"
User currently offlineHAWK21M From India, joined Jan 2001, 31702 posts, RR: 56
Reply 4, posted (9 years 3 weeks 5 days 14 hours ago) and read 3334 times:

Not until as late as possible in a calm voice & Explain the Positives of the Situation at the End.
Ask them to listen & follow FA Instructions.
regds
MEL



Think of the brighter side!
User currently offlineAAR90 From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 3481 posts, RR: 46
Reply 5, posted (9 years 3 weeks 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 3318 times:

Keep it simple -- no technical language/words.
Keep it short -- folks quickly forget what you said 60 seconds ago.
Tell them what to do -- "follow all FA instructions."

Prior coordination with FA's is important!  Smile
ALWAYS tell the truth! ! !



*NO CARRIER* -- A Naval Aviator's worst nightmare!
User currently offlineEconoBoy From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2004, 157 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (9 years 3 weeks 5 days 10 hours ago) and read 3278 times:

I was once on board a plane that had to abort its landing. We were moments from touching down (at night) when suddenly the engines went to full power and we were climbing steeply and banking. Suddenly, the calm atmosphere amongst the pax became noticeably tense. But the captain then came on to the intercom and explained we had had to go round because another plane had been on the runway. He sounded so calm and relaxed that it seemed like an everyday event – an inconvenience rather than a potential disaster. Upon hearing the captain’s unruffled announcement, the pax visibly relaxed. It may actually have been pretty tense in the cockpit, but a calm voice works wonders back with the pax.

User currently offlineHAWK21M From India, joined Jan 2001, 31702 posts, RR: 56
Reply 7, posted (9 years 3 weeks 5 days 8 hours ago) and read 3248 times:

Quoting EconoBoy (Reply 6):
but a calm voice works wonders back with the pax.

That Theory works in all Fields  Smile
regds
MEL



Think of the brighter side!
User currently offlineMerlinIIIB From Norway, joined Aug 2005, 121 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (9 years 3 weeks 5 days 7 hours ago) and read 3231 times:

Quoting Kaddyuk (Reply 1):
Passengers (generally) have no clue how an aircraft operates

Generally, perhaps so. But passengers do talk to each other and among 100+ people someone know quite a lot. I experienced an in-flight engine shutdown once with no word from the folks up front. I did NOT like being uninformed and was thinking about sending an e-mail to the authorities about it.


User currently offlineEoinnz From New Zealand, joined Jul 2003, 226 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (9 years 3 weeks 5 days 7 hours ago) and read 3223 times:

Quoting HAWK21M (Reply 7):
ut a calm voice works wonders back with the pax.

this is very true!!
Although not in an aircraft situation, i was in tokyo in october last year and there was an earthquake (my first one ever!!) and needless to say i was pretty scared so immediatley rang reception to ask what to do. Very calmly he said - Do not worry sir, they happen all the time here, this is not a serious quake and the hotel will withstand even the strongest of quakes - is there anything else i can do for you? - well was completley stunned at how relaxed he was at first but then relized that i had calmed down too!!!


User currently offlineD5DBY From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (9 years 3 weeks 4 days 23 hours ago) and read 3146 times:

if a engine quit perhaps u dont need to tell the PAX anything....but you may want to consider it when the other engine quits 2....but that dont happen anyway so.....

User currently offlineJetlagged From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2005, 2572 posts, RR: 25
Reply 11, posted (9 years 3 weeks 4 days 23 hours ago) and read 3144 times:

As an engineer, I always appreciate it if a tech problem is explained honestly, not just the patronising "we have a slight problem, nothing to worry about" announcement. Clearly it mustn't be too detailed or technical or it might unduly worry some nervous passengers. To be fair, most pilots are very adept at explaining complex issues in simple ways.

More dangerous is the passenger who thinks they know something about the situation and causes panic by spreading false details.

In an emergency the pilots should be 100% honest with the passengers, both to get their attention, and to ensure they are primed to follow the cabin crew instructions.



The glass isn't half empty, or half full, it's twice as big as it needs to be.
User currently offlineJulesmusician From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 12, posted (9 years 3 weeks 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 2999 times:

I do remember that a few years ago I was on a greek island which had a moderate earthquake (bottles falling off shelves smashing, difficulty walking in straight line for a few seconds) and the pilots and crew were specifically told by the operating company not to tell the passengers anything on flights inbound in order that the company didn't have problems with passengers demanding to be taken home before disembarking, although holiday makers already there were demanding to be taken home because it scared them a lot..

User currently offlineElectech6299 From United States of America, joined Aug 2005, 616 posts, RR: 3
Reply 13, posted (9 years 3 weeks 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 2992 times:

Quoting MerlinIIIB (Reply 8):
I did NOT like being uninformed and was thinking about sending an e-mail to the authorities about it.

Feel free, but it might be more useful to see if a pilot is available afterwards to answer your questions- or post the question on this forum. The airline is there to transport pax and cargo safely and peacefully, not to satisfy the insatiable curiosity of entusiasts like us....

Quoting Jetlagged (Reply 11):
As an engineer, I always appreciate it if a tech problem is explained honestly, not just the patronising "we have a slight problem, nothing to worry about" announcement.

Yes, I like that too, but again, it's the whole of the pax that needs to be catered to. As people in the industry (or at least more aware than the average pax), I think we need to be sensitive to that. I like the Men In Black approach- "a person is smart, but people are stupid." You can explain technical matters to one person easily enough, but try it with a full load of pax and you'll unneccesarily complicate the matter, and end up with a lot of headaches!!!

"Did he say an engine was down?"
"It's been down the whole flight, right under the wing. Where did he expect it to be?"
"Does that mean it fell off?"
"No, it means it's hanging too low and will drag when we land."
"It's OK, they have a spare....There's always two of everything."
"Where do they keep the spare?"
"I dunno, it must come out the back or something, like the guns on Airwolf."
"I only saw one engine under the wing. But the pilot said there were two. I think he's lying."
"The plane's flying just fine, I think the whole deal is a lie. There's nothing wrong."
"I think the captain shut it down on purpose, to explain why we have to go to a different gate at the airport. It's a cover-up. It's really because a terrorist is on the flight and is going to get arrested."
"Nah, The sky marshall would arrest him and handcuff him right here. That's what they're there for. I think the pilot spilled his coffee in his lap, hit the controls, and the autopilot kicked off. Didn't you notice that bump? The engine's fine, he's just making an excuse for being a crummy pilot."

and on, and on, and on....

Quoting Jetlagged (Reply 11):
More dangerous is the passenger who thinks they know something about the situation and causes panic by spreading false details.

Amen to that, brother!! Best advice to spread is to be...

Quoting Jetlagged (Reply 11):
primed to follow the cabin crew instructions

The FAs are there for a reason, they will let you know anything you NEED to be aware of (If the Captain doesn't)



Send not to know for whom the bell tolls...it tolls for thee
User currently offlineHAWK21M From India, joined Jan 2001, 31702 posts, RR: 56
Reply 14, posted (9 years 3 weeks 3 days 11 hours ago) and read 2951 times:

The Pax need to be told in simple terms & in a calm way about the problem,stressing on them following the FAs instructions.
regds
MEL



Think of the brighter side!
User currently offlineMerlinIIIB From Norway, joined Aug 2005, 121 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (9 years 3 weeks 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 2888 times:

Quoting Electech6299 (Reply 13):
"Did he say an engine was down?"
"It's been down the whole flight, right under the wing. Where did he expect it to be?"
"Does that mean it fell off?"

Gosh, this attitude is frightening - that people are SO stupid that it is impossible to explain anything to them. Ask a medical doctor about this strategy, how much confidence he will achieve among his patients. It worked in the 80's, today this kind of thinking is gaining nothing but loss of passengers confidence.

I agree on the "calm voice" strategy, and disagree with secrecy.


User currently offlineKerberos From Canada, joined Apr 2004, 119 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (9 years 3 weeks 2 days 12 hours ago) and read 2819 times:

I was on an Air Transat A330 and on reaching the runway for take-off, we turned around and headed for the terminal. The captain explained that there was an indication in the cockpit that wouldn't 'reset'. We got to the gate and mechanics boarded and went to the cockpit. We were there for about 40 mins when the captain came back on and explained that an indicator was reporting false readings, and was deemed faulty. The indicator was for a non-critical system it was replaced and we were good to go.

Now I'm technically inclined - I work with large computer systems and networks and have a basic understanding of systems on the aircraft - and this explanation was fine for me. I know that sometimes you have faulty parts, and as long as they are replaced, its no big deal. I also know that they will not willingly dispatch an aircraft that is in any way unsafe.

The captains explanation was fine for me and I was ready to go. However 10 or so passengers demanded to be let off the aircraft as they felt unsafe. The last guy was really upset, and yelled to every one that if they want to live, then they should get off the plane now! A few more heeded his suggestion. We were delayed another 30 mins while they found everyone's luggage.

On arrival in Cuba, I glanced at the Reg # of the aircraft and it was C-GITS - the infamous Azores Glider. I thought to myself...well I hope it really was a "non-critical" system and not the fuel transfer pumps again. (I know it wasn't the fuel transfer pumps that caused the incident - I've read the report)

I guess my point is, that even if the captain gave a more technical explanation, then there are those that may read more into it and thus be more nervous than need be. I think keeping the passengers on a "need to know" basis is best, even if personally I would prefer a more detailed explanation, at the end of the day, I don't need to know.



This is your captain speaking. I’ve turned off the no-smokin’ sign. Hell, if the plane is smokin' why can't you?
User currently offlineHAWK21M From India, joined Jan 2001, 31702 posts, RR: 56
Reply 17, posted (9 years 3 weeks 2 days 11 hours ago) and read 2813 times:

Quoting Kerberos (Reply 16):
However 10 or so passengers demanded to be let off the aircraft as they felt unsafe.

Weirdos.What would they do next.Take a bus.

Quoting Kerberos (Reply 16):
The last guy was really upset, and yelled to every one that if they want to live, then they should get off the plane now

These Herd mentality Self proclamed leaders are the worst.They get the rest to do the hard work to serve their purpose.

I feel the very fact that the Aircraft returned back to replace the Indication snag was the right decision & there was nothing wrong in it.Pax need to know Aircraft of today are very safe with numerous Backups on board.

I don't know how calmer the Pilot could have been in dispelling the fears of those 10 Pax.
regds
MEL



Think of the brighter side!
User currently offlineMerlinIIIB From Norway, joined Aug 2005, 121 posts, RR: 0
Reply 18, posted (9 years 3 weeks 2 days 9 hours ago) and read 2801 times:

Quoting Kerberos (Reply 16):
I guess my point is, that even if the captain gave a more technical explanation, then there are those that may read more into it and thus be more nervous than need be. I think keeping the passengers on a "need to know" basis is best, even if personally I would prefer a more detailed explanation, at the end of the day, I don't need to know.

Excellent example! What would happen if they just returned and landed without any comment at all. Less anxiety? The self proclaimed leader sitting there quiet... of course not. In this example, I believe they did the right thing and kept the degree of technical details at a proper level.


User currently offlineTimePilot From Switzerland, joined Sep 2005, 296 posts, RR: 0
Reply 19, posted (9 years 3 weeks 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 2722 times:

I'm a nervous flier myself, so it is very reassuring to have a calm voice up front. This summer coming over from ORD to NGO the pilot was very relaxed. In his southern twang he said it might "get a little bumpy, so ahead and have a seat". Right after landing he said "Thanks for flying AA. Y'all come back and see again." which I thought was great.  cheerful 

3 years ago I was on a flight from Frankfurt to Nagoya on Lufthansa. We got bussed out to the big Airbus (don't remember what it was) and sat in it forever. They came on eventually and told us we they were having mechanical problems. Only the announcements in German, English and Japanese were all different!! The announcement in German said a 'mechanical problem', the English announcement said there was a fuel leak and the Japanese one just said 'minor difficulties'  Yeah sure They had to put us on a bus and send us back to the terminal while they got a new plane.

Perhaps depending on the culture the protocol should be different? There's the example that a traveller is hiking and stops at a shop to ask how much farther he has to go. If the shop keeper was Japanese, he'd say "only a little bit further" even if it was 10 miles. He would do this so as not to discourage the traveller. If the shop keeper was American (just go with me on this) then he'd probably say "another hour or so" being honest. If I was the traveller and I had 10 miles to go and someone told me "only a little bit further" I'd be pissed. A Japanese person probably wouldn't since they're expecting a response like that.

For some people it's better that they don't know what's going on. Living in Japan for 5 years has taught me that. People are not told if the engine falls off, or the wheels pop off or whatever. In Japan they try to put forth the attitude that everything is just fine and there's no need to panic. For any foreigners it tends to be a very annoying experience since you don't know what's going on.

When Japanese travel to the US, it's funny to watch them worry when people say "Oh one of the engines is on fire. We're just going to put it out and be on our way. Seat belt secure, honey?"  razz 


User currently offlineElectech6299 From United States of America, joined Aug 2005, 616 posts, RR: 3
Reply 20, posted (9 years 3 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 2593 times:

Quoting MerlinIIIB (Reply 15):
Gosh, this attitude is frightening - that people are SO stupid that it is impossible to explain anything to them. Ask a medical doctor about this strategy, how much confidence he will achieve among his patients. It worked in the 80's, today this kind of thinking is gaining nothing but loss of passengers confidence.

I agree on the "calm voice" strategy, and disagree with secrecy.

I disagree with secrecy too. But an airline pilot is not a doctor. A patient is responsible for decisions affecting their health, but a passenger is not responsible for decisions affecting a flight. We just tend to be a control-hungry society, and nothing bothers people more than feeling like they are being told that it's none of their business. (even when it isn't) And no, in general, people aren't that stupid- That post was an attempt (however poor) at humor in an otherwise dull thread. Maybe we A-netters need to lighten up a little.

Back to topic, I would even suggest that guidelines are different on the more "intimate" RJs or flights with few pax, and as vague and reassuring as possible on full heavies. The last thing anyone needs is the uninformed to think they have enough information to disagree with the Captain and FAs. What people need is as much confidence as possible in the airline- 'cause whether they have it or not, their skin is in the hands of the Captain and crew. Anything done- by crew or pax- that shakes confidence should be avoided.

Quoting MerlinIIIB (Reply 18):
Excellent example! What would happen if they just returned and landed without any comment at all. Less anxiety? The self proclaimed leader sitting there quiet... of course not. In this example, I believe they did the right thing and kept the degree of technical details at a proper level.

Excellent example! A pax with too much info got the wrong message. I think they probably messed up in the delivery, not the content. Starting with the worst scenario (short of an aborted t/o run) - turned around at the runway threshhold. The Captain made the first announcement, and probably did the best he could. It's now in the hands of the FAs. Waiting in silence for 40 minutes before the announcement of the problem being fixed, that was too long. And I think there should be training (or even cue cards) for pilots on wording- even simple changes in phrasing can communicate either calm resolution or anxious uncertainty.

Nobody has suggested keeping silence, MerlinIIIB- and resorting to that ludicrous option and attributing it to those you disagree with is really only weakening your credibility.



Send not to know for whom the bell tolls...it tolls for thee
User currently offlineMerlinIIIB From Norway, joined Aug 2005, 121 posts, RR: 0
Reply 21, posted (9 years 2 weeks 6 days 2 hours ago) and read 2519 times:

Quoting Electech6299 (Reply 20):
Nobody has suggested keeping silence, MerlinIIIB- and resorting to that ludicrous option

Concerning your remark about not communicating at all:

Quoting SlamClick (Reply 2):
I've lost engines and never told the passengers.

I have regarded this thread as both interesting and informative, and I regret that I did not understand your humor. I guess we agree on more than it seems, Electech6299. Tnx to Julesmusician for rising the question.


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