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Explainer: Passenger safety in an aeroplane

 Inside a Kenya Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner business class. [Courtesy]

An incident where a passenger on an Asian Airlines flight opened an emergency exit door mid-air has raised concerns over passenger safety in aircraft and what needs to be adhered to in consideration of flight safety.

The passenger in his 30s opened the emergency exit door of Airbus A321 that was about 200 metres above the ground while it was descending for landing at Daegu International Airport in South Korea on Friday, May 26. The man claimed that he was feeling suffocated and wanted to disembark quickly as he was under stress after losing his job.

The incident caused panic onboard and 9 passengers were taken to hospital after complaining of breathing problems. A short video of the incident that was recorded by one of the passengers onboard has since gone viral.

Is it possible to open the door while airborne?

Technically, it is not possible to open the doors in flight due to aerodynamics and cabin pressure considering the speed at which an Airbus lands which is about 170 miles per hour (mph).

However, it is possible to open the emergency exit doors when an aircraft is near ground level because the pressure outside and inside the cabin are similar.

In the aviation industry, various comprehensive measures have been put in practice to ensure aeroplane safety and safe travel experiences for passengers. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), is a body that sets technical standards for airlines which includes enforcing safety regulations and standards that all airlines must follow.

These regulations cover various aspects, including aircraft design, maintenance, crew training, and emergency procedures.

Safety Briefings and Demonstrations: Prior to takeoff, flight attendants provide safety briefings and demonstrations to passengers, highlighting important safety information such as seat belt usage, emergency exits, and oxygen mask deployment.

Emergency Equipment: Aircraft are equipped with various emergency equipment, including life vests, oxygen masks, and emergency slides. Flight attendants are trained to handle emergency situations and assist passengers in evacuating the aircraft if necessary.

Cabin Crew Training: Flight attendants undergo extensive training that includes emergency procedures, first aid, and passenger management. They are trained to respond quickly and effectively to various situations, ensuring the safety and well-being of passengers.

Safety Technology: Modern aeroplanes are equipped with advanced safety technologies, such as enhanced navigation systems, collision avoidance systems, and improved weather radar. These technologies help pilots make informed decisions and enhance the overall safety of the flight.

Safety Inspections and Audits: Airlines undergo regular safety inspections and audits conducted by regulatory authorities and industry organisations. These inspections assess the airline's compliance with safety regulations, maintenance procedures, and crew training standards.

Air Traffic Control: Air traffic controllers play a crucial role in ensuring the safe movement of aircraft. They provide guidance and instructions to pilots, monitor air traffic, and maintain safe separation between aircraft.

Aircraft Maintenance and Inspection: Airlines adhere to strict maintenance schedules and conduct regular inspections to ensure that aircraft are in optimal condition. Maintenance personnel follow rigorous protocols and guidelines to address any mechanical issues promptly.

Highly Skilled Pilots: Pilots undergo rigorous training and certification processes to ensure their competence and proficiency in operating an aircraft. They receive recurrent training and simulator sessions to stay updated with the latest procedures and technologies.

Passengers can contribute to their own safety by following instructions from the flight crew, fastening seat belts during takeoff and landing, and remaining vigilant throughout the flight. It is also advisable to report any suspicious activities or items to the flight crew.

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