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Ttailsteve
Topic Author
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Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Tue Sep 05, 2006 2:30 am

The following argument is one I have proposed for years and even wrote a lenghty paper on in college. I realize it will evoke a fair amount of discussion and possibly some negative comments. However, I feel the premise is based on the real world and valid.

THE SLIPPERY SLOPE OF AIRLINE CRASHES:

Most people have instant, emotional gut reactions to airline crashes. Of course you hope they won't happen and are sorry to see the pain and suffering they cause when they do happen. Everyone wants to prevent accidents. How many people want a plane to crash? None. (well lets exclude terrorists and Al Queda and evil folks of that nature)

We have to rationalize that crashes will occur, mistakes will be made and people will die from said mistakes. Not a nice thing to rationalize but its true.

This is a horrible thought for most folks to consider but is factored into many products and services you use and take for granted from amusement park rides, automobiles, trains, medical serives, new drug therapies and yes, airline operations.

The question is simply: "What is an acceptable loss of life?" AND "Does making flying safer actually result in more deaths?"

I would argue many things that would make flying safer come at the expense of actually killing more people. (I will explain. I realize this seems like an oxy moron but makes perfect sense actually.)

Many things can be done to increase safety of both airline operations and the aircraft themselves. Systems could be put in place that would virtually eliminate accidents, only the very best pilots could be hired with extensive experience to fly the aircraft, and planes could be designed so the few that would crash would ensure the almost certain survivability of the occupants without injury. We could go as far to have all pax in 5 point harnesses, super re-inforced cabins with crush zones, air bags...ect...you name it we could do it and probably build a plane that almost never crashes and that when it does maintains a near 100% survivability rate. Of course your 747-400 might go from being able to carry 380 pax to 20 or 30 or even less because of the weight and the price of the ticket would of course multiply 100 fold or more.

Herein lies my argument: MOST things that would raise the safety of airline operations raise the cost of the tickets. Higher ticket prices mean less people flying and more people using other modes of transportation. Flying is already the SAFEST form of transportation and even has a better safety rate than walking. (more people die falling out of bed than from plane crashes) So if more people drive or take trains or ships more people are at risk because they are not flying. Therefore, more people are as risk of serious injury or death because flying has been made safer.

Of course you say I am using the extremes of an argument...but am I?

What about the debate of putting infants in car seats on board aircraft verses parents holding them in their lap. Many family's with young infants can't afford to buy 1 or 2 additional seats on a flight to put their children in a car seat so they would drive to grandmas or wherever instead. This puts them on dangerous highways, since they couldn't afford the extra money to fly they probably have a smaller, less safe car putting them at even more risk on the highways and these family trips most often come during the holidays or or other busy travel periods putting them at even greater risk.

I argue infants are exponentially safer flying in their parents laps than traveling by car.

How about the recommendations airlines carry around hundreds of pounds of extra fuel in the center tanks of aircraft for shorter flights to counter the remote possibility of another TWA 800 fuel tank explosion? We know that even removing the pillows from aircraft can save millions in fuel so how much more will it cost of tanker around extra un-needed fuel?

I argue the chance of another TWA800 type accident so remote the added costs of tanking fuel put people at risk as they might not be able to fly as much exposing them to less safe modes of travel.

The requirement to have fire extinguishes in all cargo holds al la Valujet 592. Horrible of course the crash happened but in the end how many millions of people have flown safely on planes with no cargo hold fire equipment. In fact the cargo hold was air tight. No air no fire, unless of course you illegally put O2 generating canisters in said hold. The safety of design was there already, no O2==no fire. Putting the canisnteris there illegally is the same as a night club chaining the exit doors shut. The safety was there but defeated. An unscrupulous operator very well might bypass the fire equipment to keep the plane in operations rather than have it working at all times. Forcing airlines to retire so many older aircraft juts make sit harder from new entrants to emerge and thus makes the cost of flying more expensive.

I could spend all day talking about safety recommendations that would possibly make flying marginally safer at the cost of making it more expensive thus exposing people who cannot afford to pay more to fly to less safe alternative modes of transportation.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Please consider my point before responding with a gut reaction. Your thoughts welcome.
 
sv2008
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RE: Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Tue Sep 05, 2006 2:52 am

Quoting TTailSteve (Thread starter):
removing the pillows from aircraft can save millions in fuel

Is that really true?
 
Ttailsteve
Topic Author
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RE: Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Tue Sep 05, 2006 2:57 am

Quoting Sv2008 (Reply 1):

Is that really true?

Yes, someone help me was it American or Delta that took all of the pillows off of their MD80 series aircraft and were projecting a savings of around 2 million dollars a year.

[Edited 2006-09-04 19:58:55]
 
trex8
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RE: Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Tue Sep 05, 2006 8:41 am

Quoting TTailSteve (Reply 2):
Yes, someone help me was it American or Delta that took all of the pillows off of their MD80 series aircraft and were projecting a savings of around 2 million dollars a year.

was it actually fuel cost or just the cost of providing them???
 
APFPilot1985
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RE: Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Tue Sep 05, 2006 8:51 am

Before the FAA implements any mandatory safety changes they take a model and come up with an idea of how many lives the implementation will save, they then multiply that number by a set amount that they value each life at (somewhere around 1.8 million) and then if the amount is greater than the cost of implementing set change that is taken into consideration.
Stand Up and Be Counted Visit Site Related to Voice your opinion
 
cbphoto
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RE: Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Tue Sep 05, 2006 8:54 am

Quoting Sv2008 (Reply 1):
Quoting TTailSteve (Thread starter):
removing the pillows from aircraft can save millions in fuel

Is that really true?

Well...off topic, but back in the days when NWA used to serve sandwiches on there flights, at one point they decided to remove one piece of lettuce from each sandwich, which in turn saved them millions annually! You would be amazed at how much the little things add up!!
ETOPS: Engines Turning or Passengers Swimming
 
ATCme
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RE: Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Tue Sep 05, 2006 8:57 am

I don't think I've ever thought of it like that... This might be good to show my friends who are deathly afraid of flying. Thanks for the insight.

In other matters, you'd be a good debater...

ATCme  spin 
I'm from the FAA, and I'm here to help. Really. Yes I'm serious, I'm here to help you.
 
APFPilot1985
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RE: Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Tue Sep 05, 2006 9:00 am

Quoting TTailSteve (Thread starter):
In fact the cargo hold was air tight

really? How is it then that live cargo is carried in them?
Stand Up and Be Counted Visit Site Related to Voice your opinion
 
PlainSmart
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RE: Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Tue Sep 05, 2006 9:21 am

Some good points here, and some that aren't well known by the general public. I recently did a research paper on the benefits of installing seatbelt-mounted airbags on airliners, and found that there would be very little benefit overall. General aviation, however, stands a good chance of seeing immediate benefits from airbags in the cabin.

Safety needs really depend on the type of operation and its associated risks. As far as commercial aviation is concerned, I'd like to have more fire-blocked cabin furnishings rather than shoulder harnesses or airbags.
 
Vref5
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RE: Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Tue Sep 05, 2006 10:04 am

Quoting TTailSteve (Thread starter):
Most people have instant, emotional gut reactions to airline crashes. Of course you hope they won't happen and are sorry to see the pain and suffering they cause when they do happen. Everyone wants to prevent accidents. How many people want a plane to crash? None.

We have to rationalize that crashes will occur, mistakes will be made and people will die from said mistakes. Not a nice thing to rationalize but its true.

This is a horrible thought for most folks to consider but is factored into many products and services you use and take for granted from amusement park rides, automobiles, trains, medical serives, new drug therapies and yes, airline operations.

Yep. (On all counts). Pilots are very used to the harsh realities of flying, believe me. They know exactly what's on the line every single time they fly.

As to the second question... that's rather novel, but not the first time we've heard that position or question put forth. Others has asked or said the same thing in the past.

Let me ask this: what are the costs of running an airline? It is mostly locked up in fuel and labor (including pension) costs. Much of the rest is generally attributable to debt service (paying off the aircraft lease or purchase) and aircraft maintenance.

It is impossible to make aerospace perfectly safe -- not even NASA can do it, but the safety margin makes a lot more things survivable in face of routine human error. And thus, reduces accident rate. Accidents are extremely expensive for everybody involved. Not just settlement payouts, but also legal costs in prosecuting or defending, as well as aircraft replacement or repair.

Think about it this way for a moment:

How much does a 737 cost? About USD $63 million at list price. How much does an airline's insurer pay out after it crashes? About $500 million to a billion, maybe. Less than $63 million? No way.

Not to mention the hit to brand name and other flights they could've sold. It's cheaper to ensure accidents are avoided, and thus, safety measures make more economic sense on the whole.

Could a 737 cost less if you did away with safety rules? Oh, sure. But then, you'd run into risk of more accidents... which costs even more, and likely would drive up the cost of a ticket due to higher insurance premiums [and the airline then recovering the cost from paying customers -- airlines are not charities].

Which, in the end, would make it even less affordable for the people in question, and less likely they would walk away from a flight when a bunch of people messes up on a bad day for whatever reasons. (It happens, even to the best of us.)

Cessna 152: USD $12,000 used... you crash, can easily spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills, legal fees, property damage, replacement, insurance. It's a lot cheaper to avoid an accident, quite frankly. Defending yourself in court for a 'small' accident like this usually starts at $30,000.

Safety regulations is a big part behind making this possible (accident reduction and related expenses). Very exacting tolerance, high level of pilot training, ATC training, A&P aircraft repair tech training, etc. goes a long way in this goal.

Interesting logic you used, but nevertheless, based on an incorrect premise, and mixes several different things. Sorry.

[Edited 2006-09-05 03:06:41]
 
PlainSmart
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RE: Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Tue Sep 05, 2006 10:47 am

Quoting Vref5 (Reply 9):
It's cheaper to ensure accidents are avoided, and thus, safety measures make more economic sense on the whole.

I think TTailSteve is trying to show that adding a whole bunch of new safety features probably won't be very cost effective. He's not trying to say that removing safety features would be a good idea, but that many new ideas, like airbags and 5-point harnesses would cost a huge amount of money for an airline to install in a fleet of aircraft. The benefits from many of these new devices are debatable at best, and the probability that they would ever be used is extremely low.

Like the original post stated, we could make a plane safe and strong enough to allow passengers to survive any crash, but it would be so heavy and expensive that we wouldn't be able to fill it with very many people.
 
Vref5
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RE: Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Tue Sep 05, 2006 11:05 am

Hmm. I would not be in favor of blindly adding safety features 'just because'; that, I would agree with, wholeheartedly.

However, safety features that do make sense... should be installed. Those that don't, well, shouldn't be paid for and installed.

Not all things are intuitive. For instance, there has been studies (in the U.S.) of school bus crashes and a need for safety belts... it was shown that it was safer to not have seat belts installed on the school buses. Interesting study. Also partially the reason why, today, school buses do not generally have seat belts installed in most common models.

And, naturally, there are safety features that does not make a strong economic argument (e.g. limited in scope), which is kind of a grey area.

However, the original post generally indicated that use of safety features in itself was a slippery slope, leading to more expensive aviation, leading to more deaths on highways by less enriched people due to expense of aviation. This position, in itself, is false due to a logical fallacy.
 
FlyDeltaJets
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RE: Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Tue Sep 05, 2006 12:11 pm

Quoting Vref5 (Reply 11):
Also partially the reason why, today, school buses do not generally have seat belts installed in most common models.

The school buses that I have ever rode in all have seat belts. It is jus that the students negleted to use them.
The only valid opinions are those based in facts
 
PlainSmart
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RE: Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Tue Sep 05, 2006 12:25 pm

Quoting Vref5 (Reply 11):
However, the original post generally indicated that use of safety features in itself was a slippery slope, leading to more expensive aviation, leading to more deaths on highways by less enriched people due to expense of aviation. This position, in itself, is false due to a logical fallacy.

If that's the case, I'll gladly pay extra for CRM training, seatbelts, and an oxygen mask  Smile
 
ADXMatt
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RE: Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Tue Sep 05, 2006 3:25 pm

Quoting CBPhoto (Reply 5):
Quoting Sv2008 (Reply 1):
Quoting TTailSteve (Thread starter):
removing the pillows from aircraft can save millions in fuel

Is that really true?

Well...off topic, but back in the days when NWA used to serve sandwiches on there flights, at one point they decided to remove one piece of lettuce from each sandwich, which in turn saved them millions annually! You would be amazed at how much the little things add up!!

removing one piece of lettice? I think the savings realized was from buying less lettice not less weight.

With the pillows... I think the $avings come from the cleaning, replacements, etc. A small amount from weight maybe but the significant $$ from the other.
 
speedracer1407
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RE: Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Tue Sep 05, 2006 4:37 pm

Quoting Vref5 (Reply 11):
Not all things are intuitive. For instance, there has been studies (in the U.S.) of school bus crashes and a need for safety belts... it was shown that it was safer to not have seat belts installed on the school buses

Interesting. I'd like to see the reasoning behind this, not that I doubt it.

I was involved in a school bus crash when I was in 4th grade. The brakes failed (or in some way underperformed) while stopping for a toll booth in Illinois. We rear ended the bus in front. I was sitting in the front left seat, behind the driver, with some sort of structural or protective bar infront of me. I was thrown against my lap belt pretty hard, and I'm sure that If I hadn't been the only dork wearing his seat belt, I'd have flown into that unforgiving bar between me and the driver.
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jush
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RE: Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Tue Sep 05, 2006 4:49 pm

Quoting Speedracer1407 (Reply 15):
not that I doubt it

But I do... I don't have a source for that right now but I remember a programme after a crash in Hungary where a lot of german tourists died.
If they had seatbelt a lot if them would've survived.

Regds
jush
There is one problem with airbus. Though their products are engineering marvels they lack passion, completely.
 
paulc
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RE: Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Tue Sep 05, 2006 5:16 pm

A quick and easy way would be to have all passenger seats facing backwards so in the event of an accident the deceleration forces are taken by your back rather than a small area of the seatbelt. Cost is minimal as it could be done when undergoing maintenance.

The RAF passenger aircraft have had rear facing seats for many years.
English First, British Second, european Never!
 
Bobski
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RE: Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Tue Sep 05, 2006 6:51 pm

Quoting Paulc (Reply 17):
A quick and easy way would be to have all passenger seats facing backwards so in the event of an accident the deceleration forces are taken by your back rather than a small area of the seatbelt. Cost is minimal as it could be done when undergoing maintenance.

The RAF passenger aircraft have had rear facing seats for many years.

I was reading about that. If I remember rightly they stopped doing it because it disorientated the passengers and made them more susceptable to air-sickness.
Who is Benjamin Breeg?
 
EMA747
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RE: Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Tue Sep 05, 2006 7:41 pm

Very interesting reading TTailSteve, thanks.

Quoting ATCme (Reply 6):
This might be good to show my friends who are deathly afraid of flying

I most certainly will. One of my friends has just gone from Sheffield to St. Petersburg, Russia to study for a year. He is scared of plane crases so he took the bus. The journey was something like 26-36 hours as opposed to about 2.5 by plane. How much more at risk will he have been by taking the bus not the plane? A LOT I think.

Quoting Bobski (Reply 18):
If I remember rightly they stopped doing it because it disorientated the passengers and made them more susceptable to air-sickness.

I don't normally suffer from travel sickness but rear facing seat do make me feel a bit dissorientated.

Andy S
Failing doesn’t make you a failure. Giving up and refusing to try again does!
 
firefly_cyhz
Screener
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RE: Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Tue Sep 05, 2006 7:49 pm

regarding the school buses with no seat belts I had heard in the past why but could not remember...found this: http://www.safety-council.org/info/traffic/schbusbelt.htm
 
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HAWK21M
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RE: Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Tue Sep 05, 2006 8:41 pm

Quoting Sv2008 (Reply 1):
Is that really true?

Even Dust accumulations contribute to excessive fuel consumption due weight.
regds
MEL
I may not win often, but I damn well never lose!!! ;)
 
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777Dad
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RE: Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Tue Sep 05, 2006 9:00 pm

Quoting TTailSteve (Thread starter):
What is an acceptable loss of life?"

Is any loss of life "acceptable?" Every life is precious. Unfortunately it's our fate.
It don't matter the circumstances surrounding how we go. We can be as safe as we want but when it's time......  angel 

Jeff
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ltbewr
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RE: Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Tue Sep 05, 2006 9:01 pm

Cost benefit analysis is always critical in determining what to add or modify as to aircraft itself. We continue to learn from airline crashes as to reducing the risks and how to do that. TWA 800 has led to research and some modifications, changes in maintenance and operational procedures and improved fuel tank components to reduce risks from fuel fumes. SR111 led to improvements in, greater inspections of and better wiring components, coverings and wiring design and installations. Other crashes have led to training improvements and better cockpit management attitudes and changes to reduce the risks from pilot errors.
Great benefits have been achieved in the last 20+ years from improvements in technology in the aircraft as well as elsewhere. This is especially true from the increased use of better computer systems and programs on aircraft as well as on the ground to determine weather. Improvements in determining weather conditions has substantially reduced those risks. Improvements on the aircraft means less demands upon the pilots, better warnings of potential problems, as well as making it easier and quicker to deal with potential problems.
Improvements in mechanical servicing and flight procedures have considerably reduced risks caused by human error. Still, human error still seems to be the main risk, such as landing in bad weather, not dealing quickly enough with an emergency, bad ground and air control. This seems to be the next real area to make improvements in with economic benefit.
Money is still a serious problem, with the serious pressure of costs to airlines, many in bad financial problems, and how much one can charge to make money, and the costs to make incremental improvements.
 
EMBQA
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RE: Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Tue Sep 05, 2006 9:16 pm

Quoting TTailSteve (Thread starter):
We know that even removing the pillows from aircraft can save millions in fuel

The saving comes from replacement and labor hours saved from cleaning the cabin and returning them to their stowage locations.


Quoting TTailSteve (Thread starter):
In fact the cargo hold was air tight. No air no fire,

Cargo holds are not air tight. They are pressurized, but have air flow from the cabin to allow transport of live goods.

Quoting TTailSteve (Thread starter):
unless of course you illegally put O2 generating canisters in said hold.

It was not illegal to transport the O2 generators in the cargo hold. What they did wrong was the fact they did not install the safety caps over the firing pins for transport, they miss labeled them as discharged when they really were not. Until this accident it was perfectly legal to transport them
"It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog"
 
YYZYYT
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RE: Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Tue Sep 05, 2006 11:27 pm

Quoting Paulc (Reply 17):
A quick and easy way would be to have all passenger seats facing backwards so in the event of an accident the deceleration forces are taken by your back rather than a small area of the seatbelt. Cost is minimal as it could be done when undergoing maintenance.

The RAF passenger aircraft have had rear facing seats for many years.

I beleive Mythbusters concurred that rear facing was safest in a crash!

As to the premise of the the original post, I would disagree to a large extent.

I agree with the premise that air travel is the safest form of travel; that it is far far safer than cars. (I also recall the FAA studies on car seats and the effect that mandatory car seats would have on infant's travel). I also agree that there are freak accidents and crashes due to corner-cutting, that could be largely prevented by implementing a "perfect" system and enforceing it at any cost.

Despite this I think that TTailSteve's analogy is taken too far: There are many safety suggestions (a few reasonable, some outlandish) that will never be implemented for cost reasons. But to focus on these ignores the reality.

In today's (western) world aviation is safer than ever before. This is the result of the fact that in many parts of the world standards have been on the increase for DECADES: in terms of aircraft design, equipment that aircraft must carry, maintenance and training, etc, etc. Technological advances - particularly electronic - have had a huge impact.

Yet, these safety advances, ranging from common sense improvements to expensive safety programs have been incorporated without widespread price increases. To the contrary, the long term trend shows that safety is on the increase at that same time that travel is relatviely cheaper than ever before.

The fallacy in TTailSteve's argument is that most safety advances are not as radical as the ones he suggests (e.g., the dent-proof 744 that seats 30 but is SO safe that is can not crash and even if it did will 30 passengers will always survive). i.e., TCAS: how much does that cost in in terms of weight penalty? to purchase? to train crews? relatively little. But how many accidents can it prevent / has it prevented?

Yes it costs money to take aircraft out of service to strictly comply with scehduled maintenance checks, and to fix seemingly unimportant items because they are on the the MEL. Yes it costs money to install increasingly sophisiticated avionics, to carry redundant systems, etc, etc. But these incremental safety changes have been accepted and implemented for decades, without the type of disruption that suggested.

So no, safety innovation does not make travel less safe or cause ticket prices to skyrocket.
 
FLALEFTY
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RE: Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Wed Sep 06, 2006 1:37 am

These days fast turn-arounds mean big bucks. However, I still think the good-old pilot's pre-flight inspection is one of the best safety measures there is. Pilots taking the 15 minutes required to check for obvious leaks, cracks, dents, missing or bent fan blades, "remove-before-flight tags" that were not removed, worn-out tires, etc. can be a lifesaver.

If I were to vote for the most cost-effective aircraft mods to make the cabin safer, then it would be for larger overwing exits and the extensive use of fireblocked materials inside the cabin.
 
mlglaw
Posts: 51
Joined: Sun Feb 26, 2006 2:30 am

RE: Slippery Slope Of Plane Crashes

Wed Sep 06, 2006 3:00 am

Quoting CBPhoto (Reply 5):



Quoting CBPhoto (Reply 5):
You would be amazed at how much the little things add up!!

Think of the savings if everyone had to evacuate before boarding.
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