If I recall from the Hudson River ditching, very few passengers donned life jackets. This surprised me as even though some could have swum to shore, many would have drowned if the plane had not floated.
The US seat cusion thing is mainly in response to the fact that there is so much domestic flying and so little open water.
I think the response by the OP comes down to the fact that there are very few ditchings that occur. In a pre-planned ditching, however successful or not, there is a chance that you survive the impact. Regardless of your chances thereafter, a life jacket would help to some extent in keeping you afloat. The pre-planned scenario is pretty rare due to the reliability of aircraft. Unplanned ditching usually means a crash.
There are however the cases where aircraft over run or crash just prior to landing where water surrounds the airport. In a pre-planned emergency the crew may find it prudent to prepare for a ditching aswell or in an unplanned scenario and at that stage of flight there is a pretty good chance that alot of the fuselage will remain in tact and there MAY be time or a passenger's presence of mind to don a life jacket.
One passenger cited the Ethiopian hi-jack example where many inflated their life jackets prior to impact causing deaths. Passengers are always told not to but because many don't listen couples with the chaos of the situation some passenger may indeed inflate it. So whilst you can categorically say that early inflation of lifejackets in the Ethiopian example impeded on peoples chances, some of those that did survive may have survived because of the lifejacket inflated after impact at a time when injury meant they couldn't easily stay afloat.
In conclusion, I don't think lifejackets are particularly useless but that they are rarely required. As someone already said, it would take a brave airline to remove them.
Someone can maybe correct me if I'm wrong but I believe the FAA regulations omly require lifejackets if aircraft get more than a certain distance from the coast, which is far more than the glide-down distance, and that US carriers typically keep a small sub-fleet of so-equipped aircraft for "overwater" flights to Caribbean Islands etc. Otherwise it's the removable seat cushion, goodness knows how effective that is. This is why the Hudson ditching passengers didn't have lifejackets, and why Sully didn't call for lifejackets to be deployed in the final descent - they weren't on the aircraft. t must come as a considerable surprise for US visitors to Europe to see a lifejackets briefing on every overland flight.
When you look at actual ditchings over time, this seems a nonsense, as all in recent decades have been close to land, during approach or departure; I think the last open sea incident where lifejackets would have been mandatory may be the ONA DC9 ditching in 1970, getting on for half a century ago now.
I think you'll find the Hudson aircraft did have lifejackets onboard. Most of the passengers probably just didn't put them on- after all, the FAs said they had no idea they were going to ditch until it happened. Many airlines only train the FAs to call for lifejackets in a planned ditching. Others may have looked out the window and seen that they were on the river and figured they wouldn't need a lifejacket.
Wodrick, unless a body is trapped in wreckage it will usually float after 5 or 6 days. If you mean making them easier to spot, well, it would, but that's not the reason they are there...
The lifejackets onboard the Ethiopian 767 were the old type where you put your arms through the strap and quite difficult to undo since they had a one-way tightening strap, not a plastic 'click' buckle like they do now. Many pax simply could not get them undone when they floated to the top of the cabin.
Last edited by givemewings; 17th Aug 2012 at 22:20.
Lifejackets have been shown to almost double survival time in colder temps, given that the floater can do just that and conserve their heat energy by not having to keep their head above water. A group can also more effectively assume a HELP (Heat Escape Lessening Position) and support injured members of the group in the middle. Doubt you'd be able to do that with a group getting tired and not wearing lifejackets.
I'm curious - Are some of you actually suggesting that life-jackets have no useful function and should be removed?
I'm the OP, I asked the question because the way bean counters are running our lives I wonder how long it will be before some does the cost benefit analysis and makes a financial case for removing them.
Like it or not there is a price put on human life in various situations we encounter in daily life. So I expect that someone somewhere will have worked out much can be saved by taking the weight of equipment off aircraft, the cost to supply and maintain etc ... and balancing this against the cost in loss of life.
It would no doubt be a move that attracted some adverse publicity, but I'm sure that in time someone will decide that there is money to be saved and will give it a try ...
I recall from one of my past (similar topic) posts, I received a reply from a poster who stated that the inflatable emergency slides x the number of them have to have the capability (when detached from a/c) to support out of water the maximum number of persons on-board. Having said that, the statistics have never looked good for a sea ditching of a big jet and survival.
If at any point they could have been shown that they save a life they have a useful function, the issue is if the marginal benefit they provide justifies the additional cost.
There was a suggestion that passengers be provided with some form of hood with an oxygen supply that they could wear should they need to evacuate the aircraft, I think this was dismissed on cost and complexity grounds. Given the choice between a hood and a life jacket I’d choose the hood, but I don’t know how much extra I’d be prepared to pay for the privilege.
Watch the airlines pick up on this thread and sell the life jackets with the headsets.