From the above posts, it seems we have a bunch of sensationalizing journalists attempting to read alot more into the issue than what exists...
"souls on board" differentiates live people from dead people. You may have single engine FedEx Caravan with one pilot ferrying a dead body to Walla Walla, WA
. In his case, there is one SOB on board - the pilot!
I am sure the nautical explanation carries some weight but the use of "souls on board" today indicates live human beings, whether child, adult, infant, male, female, etc. Pets aren't included... sorry
I assure you that a pilot trying to land crippled A/C could care less if "souls on board" sounds more dramatic than "people", "passengers", "bodies" or whatever other term that comes to mind.
I will let someone else invoke empathy while I try steer my flaming can of kerosene to the earth!
[Edited 2004-03-07 00:30:32]
A lack of planning on your behalf does not create an emergency on my behalf.