Sunday, August 22, 2010

After The Crash

I have a friend who has been involved in a few airplane crashes. No, he's not a pilot, just an unlucky (or maybe he's lucky - I guess it depends on how you look at it) passenger on many, many small plane flights in Alaska.

Anyway, he told me about one group of people who all survived a crash landing in which one of the plane's wings was torn off the fuselage. The weather was blizzard conditions, and naturally all the survivors wanted to take shelter and get a fire going so they could stay warm until rescue arrived.

The wreckage of an airplane might be able to offer some opportunities for shelter material. In this particular case, the survivors decided to use the dismembered wing as part of their shelter, moving it into a position overhead and then hunkering down to stay out of the weather.

Then they built a fire beneath their newly-constructed lean-to. The problem was that the wing housed the fuel tank, and unnoticed by the survivors was the fact that the fuel was leaking. It didn't take long before the thing erupted in flame, killing everyone.

How ironic is it for everyone on the passenger list to survive the airplane wreck only to perish in a fire caused by their own ignorance?

 Had even one of the survivors been aware that…
  • the fuel tank was inside the wing
  • that in spite of the wreck there was still fuel in the tank
  • that it was leaking
  • that the fuel was highly flammable
  • and that they were all sitting in the puddling fuel
…they might not have died in the fire. 

The lesson here is that we always need to maintain situational awareness — an awareness of every aspect of the situation — and the ability to determine what the consequences of our actions might be.

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