Sitting on tarmac safer than slides

Q&A

April 29, 2007|By Los Angeles Times

I'm wondering why planes detained on the tarmac don't use those emergency chutes to get everyone off and into the airport. It beats sitting in a seat for 11 hours. Why wouldn't they do that?

The mental picture of newly freed hostages, uh, passengers, zipping down an emergency slide might bring a smile to your face, but such an exit is no laughing matter.

"Essentially, using the emergency slides to deplane an aircraft moves customers from what is a well-controlled environment inside the aircraft to an uncontrolled airport environment outside," Sebastian White, manager of corporate communications for JetBlue, wrote in an e-mail. "If customers are deplaned via slides, they typically would end up on active taxiways where they would probably encounter moving airplanes, jet blast, inclement weather conditions and security issues."

That's assuming they didn't break a leg or worse on the slides, which aren't exactly a pleasure cruise.

So, yes, there is something worse than being detained on the tarmac for half a day -- and it's being run over by an airplane, although those long-suffering passengers left without food, water or sanitary facilities might not think so.

Recent flight fiascoes highlight a bigger problem: the domino effect of delays and cancellations.

When the weather starts misbehaving, airlines have two choices: bad and worse. They can leave the plane sitting on the runway and hope there's an opening to take off, thus not completely messing up their schedules for the next few days, or they can take the plane back to the terminal, lose their place in the takeoff queue and wreak havoc on thousands of lives -- passengers and crew among them.

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