On Wednesday, an American Airlines flight from Phoenix to Dallas Fort-Worth made an emergency landing after smoke was reported in the cockpit. AA5957, operated by Mesa Airlines using a Canadair CRJ-900 aircraft, landed safely and without incident.

AA 5957 flight track | Courtesy of FlightAware.
AA5957 flight track | Courtesy of FlightAware.

The Aviation Herald reported the following on the incident:

Passengers reported the crew advised of smoke in the cockpit, a smell of smoke could also be noticed in the cabin, and advised the passengers should take brace positions for the landing.

A passenger on the flight, Steve Ramsthel, shared a video of the emergency landing and announcements made by the cabin crew in preparation for it. You could hear the distress in the flight attendant’s voice.

Maybe I’m reading too much into the tone of a crew member’s voice, but it sounded to me like he was scared. And, who wouldn’t be? Emergency landings are scary, as they signal that a true emergency response may be required. No doubt, it is stressful for everyone involved.

When I read about this emergency landing on an American Airlines flight, I can’t help but think about what I would do in that situation. On average, I fly American about twice a week. They are my carrier of choice. But their flight attendants rarely—and I truly do mean rarely—offer me the safety briefing mandated by the FAA on account of my disability.

And so, if I had been on that flight, where a flight attendant is discussing a potential evacuation of the aircraft moments before landing, the flight attendants would have had no idea how to help me. That is, unless they were the (very) rare crew thad had discussed this with me before departure. And, if that briefing had not been given, they might not even have realized that I would need help off the plane. Until the last minute, that is. And, in an emergency airplane evacuation, the last minute can be a life-or-death moment.

I’m not sure if there were any passengers with disabilities on this flight. The airline wouldn’t have told me if I asked. But I do suspect, if a non-ambulatory passenger like me were aboard, they’d have been far more concerned about their prospects of survival than any other passenger or crew member.

To the flight attendants reading this, please offer the specialized safety briefing to passengers with disabilities! It is required by the FAA and your duty. To the airline executives reading this, it is time to develop a plan to evacuate disabled passengers from airplanes.


Feature image from QSY on-route/Flickr.

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