Monday, July 8, 2013

Coffee, tea, or an exit row seat?

I wonder how long it will be before some airline marketing type decides thay can charge a premium price on exit row seating?  Just one more menu item for you to choose from when booking a trip.

"Priority boarding....a mere $20."  Nope.

"A cocktail, Sir?  Only $5?"  Umm....sure.

"Would you like a sandwich....only $8?"  Eight bucks?  No thanks.

Think you might need to use our convenient in-flight toilet facilities?  Just $3?"  No, it's only a 2 hour flight.  I can hold it.

"How about an exit row seat for a measly $100 additional?  Can save your life....whatdayasay, sport?"

After the Asiana 777 crash in San Francisco I'll bet the flight attendants will have a plane full of attentive passengers when they give their pre-flight spiel about how to bail out in an emergency.  I always volunteer for exit row seating because you generally have more leg room there, but I'm not sure I'd pay for it.  But of course I always know where my exits are anyway.


Back a dozen years ago when I was active in the airshow biz I completed ARFF (Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting) training at Dallas' Love Field.  The Dallas FD periodically puts on training classes for suburban fire departments that have small airports in their area.  It was a very eye opening experience.

Not me.  This was pinched off the internet for example.

We trained on the Southwest Airlines mock-fuselage at their Dallas home base.  In one exercise we were all seated inside, then they pumped in some sort of cloudy gas so thick you couldn't see the end of your nose.  Then they told us to find the exit, open it, and slide out.  You meet the nicest people crawling around on the floor of an airliner.  :)

Next we had to gear up.  We put on full firefighter "bunker gear"....heavy boots, fire coat and pants, nomex hood, air mask, helmet, gloves, and a Scott Air Pack.  Then in 3-man teams we had to climb a ladder up onto the wing (not easy dressed like we were), open the escape door from the outside, and climb in.  That opening is smaller than it looks.  It was very hard for me to get my head down and under while at the same time picking my feet/legs up and over.  I was pretty much folded in half.  And I don't fold in half very gracefully. *no*

Then we had to find the injured guy (a 160 pound dead weight dummy), unbuckle him, pick him up (it's all about leverage), get him down that narrow aisle onto a backboard, and slide him down the chute, all while being timed.  The professional firefighter teams did it in 3-4 minutes.  My team of amateurs did it in....let's just say my guy would have been dead, cold, stiff, and ripe before we got him out.  

Then we got to go out and play with the big trucks.  FAA requirements say that equipment must be able to get to any spot on the airport within 3 minutes.  Because of this some airports are so large they have multiple fire stations.  (DFW has four.)

The surprising thing to me was how fast they are!  And when they get to where they need to be they can dump a LOT of water/foam/whatever in no time.  As soon as they arrive the driver, using a joystick like a video game, can aim his water cannon and unload in seconds.  Very impressive!  I got to use the joystick and squirt water, but they wouldn't let me drive the truck.  I can't imagine why?  ;)

Bottom line:  These guys and ladies are VERY good.  And they go out on calls a lot more often than you might imagine.  Fortunately most incidents turn out to be non-events as the landings turn out OK.

Point thankful for our first responders, pay attention to what your flight attendants say, and bring your own crappy sandwich.  ;)



  1. I'd pay extra if they gave me an ejection seat like in the fighter planes. Screw all that leaving in an orderly fashion; I'm just going to rocket out of here, yee-hah!

  2. Quite an experience, Scott.

    I was struck by the old advice that a seat in the rear of the plane is the safest. Yet the two that were killed were seated toward the rear. 'Course this was kind of a freak accident.

  3. I'm proud of our first responders and glad there were so few casualties in San Francisco. But it's still an agony for the parents of those two unfortunate girls.

  4. An accident like that makes you think... which, of course, you shouldn't. Flying is still safer than going out on the road.

    Many years ago, I sat next to a really delightful elderly lady during a flight to Germany. I told her that I was not afraid of flying, but had to admit to the occasional "weird" thought during take-off and landing. Hazel told me not to think such thoughts, and then reminded me of a flight that had been in the news a few years before. Both engines on the plane stalled and wouldn't re-start. The plane dropped thousands of feet, with all passengers probably convinced they would die, before the pilot managed to get one and then the second engine started again and proceeded to an uneventful landing at the nearest airport. Yes, I told Hazel, I remembered the story in the news. Hazel smiled at me, "I was on that flight."

    You just never know.

    1. If I gave the impression I was not a fan of flying, that is not true at all. There are a few third world airlines I wouldn't fly on, but they are few. Flying is extremely safe.

  5. I'm less concerned about the crash factor than I am the sardine factor - I've gotten more claustrophobic as I've gotten older (deep breaths Dana!).

    That was a REALLY cool experience for you! I've read books where people were training to be first responders & I know that there's no way I would be any help at all. They're all pretty amazing!

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  7. Fascinating piece and very timely. Thanks!