View Full Version : Full evacuation test "too dangerous" on A380!

Cyclic Hotline
18th Jun 2001, 05:28
Well, this should inspire confidence amongst the pax who will be making the payments on these! I would imagine the first lawsuit for any injuries in the first "precautionary" evac, will allow the beneficiary to buy their own private jet!

Airbus in fear of full emergency test


AIRBUS is planning to introduce the world’s largest passenger plane, carrying up to 1,000 passengers, without conducting a full evacuation test. The company said yesterday that it was afraid that people could be permanently injured in the exercise.
At least 200 passengers will sit 30ft above ground on the highest of the three decks on a full Airbus A380. They would have to jump down an inflatable slide in an emergency.

A fifth of the company, which is based in Toulouse, France, is owned by Britain’s BAE Systems. Airbus fears that any injuries in a full evacuation test would be exploited by Boeing, its rival, and could undermine the whole project. Instead, it is planning to conduct tests involving only a fraction of the total number of passengers.

Scientists will then use mathematical models in an attempt to demonstrate to the safety authorities — Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority and America’s Federal Aviation Administration — that the plane is safe.

Derek Davies, the A380 marketing director, said: “If you subject more than 800 people to an evacuation test and someone comes off the bottom of the slide and someone else hits them from behind, you have to ask why we have maimed somebody. There will be questions asked if someone is left a paraplegic.”

A spokesman for the CAA said it was hoped that an evacuation simulator at Cranfield University would reduce the need for live tests. While at present a full evacuation test was required for all new aircraft, the simulator could be used by Airbus “to do a lot of the research on the safety of extremely large aircraft”. He added: “Obviously if you do full evacuations, you do run the risk of injuring people. In future there could well be a lot of work done with computer scenarios.”

People had been injured in previous tests and insurance companies now demanded that anyone taking part undergo a medical examination.

Airbus is confident authorities will agree to a partial test. Boeing carried out full evacuation tests on its 747s and Mr Davies, speaking at the Paris Air Show, said that Airbus was concerned that the American company might exploit any safety issues surrounding the A380 to protect the market share of its own 400-seat 747, which is currently the world’s biggest passenger plane.

“I do not wish to appear paranoid, but the Americans are quite capable of using their expertise commercially to attack us,” Mr Davies said.

Early versions of the A380, which will begin flight tests in 2004 and enter service in 2006, will have 550 to 600 seats. Later stretch models will accommodate up to 1,000 people. The wings will be built in Britain, which is contributing 500 million of the 7.5 billion development costs in the form of a soft loan from the Government.

Under Airbus’s existing evacuation plan, 140 passengers a minute would jump out of emergency doors down 30ft slides, with people falling side by side in two lanes. However, Edward Galea, of Greenwich University, an authority on passenger behaviour in evacuations, has identified a small increase in “exit hesitation time” in early trials based on the A380 upper deck. According to Professor Galea, people are intimidated by the height of the fall, almost double that from the single deck of Airbus’s largest existing plane.

Mr Davies said people would be unable to hesitate for long because of the force of all those behind wanting to get out.

Airbus has signed deals with eight airlines, including Virgin Atlantic, for 62 A380s. The company hopes for another 40 sales this year and believes there could be 1,500 flying worldwide by 2020. The first customers received major discounts on the basic price of 160 million for each aircraft.

The A380 is designed to ease congestion at overstretched airports, in particular Heathrow.

Flight Safety
18th Jun 2001, 05:47
Hmm...I never thought of this issue with a double decker airliner.

What would happen if some hesitated on the top of the slides on the upper deck, and others behind them in a panic began to push those in front either down the slides or out of the way. I've never seen a slide with hand rails to keep someone from falling off of it. 30 feet up is a long way down if you were to come off of the slide by being pushed from behind. Maybe the slide could be designed with a deep channel profile with high sides.

Safe flying to you...

18th Jun 2001, 05:58
<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" size="2">Maybe the slide could be designed with a deep channel profile with high sides.
I'd like to see them deploy that with a nice wind blowing http://www.pprune.org/ubb/NonCGI/frown.gif

Flight Safety
18th Jun 2001, 07:04
The "Galloping Gurdy" of escape slides I think.

18th Jun 2001, 15:13
I thought the A380 could only carry at max 800 pax. Not the 1000 that the report quotes, or am i just misinformed?

capt cynical
18th Jun 2001, 17:21
Has any thought been put into "Ditching"procedures? Will all pax fit into main deck sliderafts or will they need to carry extra liferafts to cater for 500 to 800 pax. (will the big mothers float long enough?) http://www.pprune.org/ubb/NonCGI/confused.gif

dallas dude
18th Jun 2001, 17:36
When Boeing tested their emergency evac on the 777 they asked for staff volunteers for the test.

In a Seattle hangar, the signal was given and all but one volunteer made it down the slide. One lady changed her mind and refused to "get off".

The FAA based their certification on the real number evacuated and told Boeing if they wanted to add the "missing" number, they'd have to re-do the ENTIRE test.

Two questions come to mind..(a)if Airbus can't set up "ideal" conditions for a full test, what does that say about the REAL world chances of these pax in an evacuation, (b) will they expect fare paying passengers to sign a disclaimer before boarding that "in the event an evacuation is required, passengers can EXPECT to be injured"?

Airbus has come up with some great techno fixes in the past. Suggest they get to it on this also and forget any chance the FAA will change the rules for them.

After all, it's not what you know it's who you know, so to speak, and Boeing's got all the phone numbers they need!


Eastwest Loco
18th Jun 2001, 18:01
Ones mind wanders back to the QF incident at BKK - where VH-OJH wound up as a GUR area on an airport boundering golf course(and does one get a drop for a 747 on the fairway?? - call the royal and Ancient) The slide from one side of the bubble was firmly and horizontally lodged in a tree.

Pics are somewhere in the archives of airdisaster.com and in the light of all being well after the incident - quite amusing.

Could have been otherwise - thank God it wasnt.



Bunty Boy
18th Jun 2001, 18:51
There was an article in the wonderful new FLight international last week about just this topic. The slides from the top have been designed wider with higher sides and are capable of deploying if the plane is sitting at a funny angle - making the drop larger/smaller. Also, if I remember correctly the slides were detachable for pseudo-life raft function when everyone is out. The report also said that the set up meant that they could evacuate the plane in ~600 seat mode within the required time frame.

I have to say it's something I never considered when I say the plane initially, but it's obviously important and I suspect if it becomes an issue we'll see plenty of news about Airbus delaying the launch.


18th Jun 2001, 18:54
Well let's see, The JAA held up the certification of NG737 aircraft for overwing exits, and the certification of the GV is STILL pending, so I think it is time for the FAA to turn the screws a little. (Or a lot)

18th Jun 2001, 20:28
This is exactly what I have been saying in other posts for months now. The A380 will make a great freighter, but will never make 90 second evac time requirements. Get up on a roof 40 ft in the air and imagine a slide and see how many people you think are likely to throw themselves down it. Then to get it in the ass from the person behind you... Plus these slides are going to turn into sails in heavy winds.

18th Jun 2001, 22:11
The slide resting on top of the tree in Bangkok resulted from an accidental deployment the day after when the doors were opened for ventilation. Someone didn't move the lever to safe!

The picture does make a good basis for a caption contest though...


18th Jun 2001, 22:17
As stated before (by loco), B747s have upper deck slides (although not without problems), surely the height difference cannot be that much. If there was to be a perceived lack of life raft accomodation from the slides it would be possible to incorporate rafts into the wing structure.

19th Jun 2001, 00:51
As 747 Focal says;
Get up on a roof 40 ft in the air......

Then add some for a forward gear collapse or an overrun from an embanked runway-like the Tristar that went off the end at LBA in 85.

19th Jun 2001, 01:03
And....what will the first thing be for Airbus to ask for? A WAIVER for evac, to dangerous for tender Eurpoean backsides. I think the FAA will say.....evac demonstration or forget about FAA certification. And, no evac demonstration, no landing rights in the USA. Will write my congressman now.
And, on a different note, if Europe does not like hushkits for Stage III then Concorde can land in Bermuda and we can send a ferry boat for the pax to JFK. What goes around....comes around,... BIG time.
With dubbya in the White House, anything is possible! :rolleyes:

[This message has been edited by 411A (edited 18 June 2001).]

19th Jun 2001, 01:41
What about the friction from sliding down one of these slides???

...I've heard that it gets so hot after 40ft that some people may suffer 3rd degree burns!!! Urban legend? Probably, but still something to think about (like there isn't enough with this airplane!)


19th Jun 2001, 04:21
Yup, surely is!
I did a emergency procedures course a couple of months ago, and part of it was to go down a conventional slide.
I was told to keep my hands off the slide, as they'd get burned from friction - Guess that's why when I got a little sideways I didn't put my hands down, but instead dipped an elbow to keep me straight.
Yep, burned the crap out it ... ouch!
I'd hate to go down one twice as long. May not be too bad though if you're smarter than me and keep the flesh off the plastic bits. ;)

19th Jun 2001, 04:28
At the risk of being burned at the stake as a heretic, this HAS to be the reason to have a real good look at the sanity of carrying that number of pax on an airliner.

Not this little black duck.

Remember the Titanic, unsinkable and carrying a concesssion on the number of lifeboats it didn't need to carry? :rolleyes:

19th Jun 2001, 05:48
Amen gaunty, you just said a mouthful.

19th Jun 2001, 10:16
Just a thought, but did any of you guys ever go to a fun fair? There the helter-skelter has a little mat you sit on, is it beyond the wit of material sciences to extend the life vests to serve the same function for an aircraft evac. slide, adjusting the co-efficents to allow enough friction to slow the PAX down but still allow a fast route out ?


(edit to remove my fit of pique this AM)

[This message has been edited by VnV2178B (edited 19 June 2001).]

[This message has been edited by VnV2178B (edited 19 June 2001).]

19th Jun 2001, 17:35
But can you get everyone to DON their life vest AND get out in 90sec? Gonna need even more exits for that approach to make up for the initial loss of time while everyone gets dressed and that adds more weight to an already overweight aicraft...


20th Jun 2001, 03:49
Ever go down a 747 top deck slide. You hit V1 about at the bottom.

Hundred of panic'd laymen going out of the top deck of a 380? Holy Moly.

20th Jun 2001, 04:06
Seems to be OK for 568 pax to get out of the 747-400D?


20th Jun 2001, 04:53
lol, when will scarebuss realize,, that they cannot compete with boeing? :) :)

20th Jun 2001, 07:28
My two bobs worth:

If Airbus want the certification then I feel that they should have to also prove - like other manufacturers - that their aircraft can meet the requirements. There should be NO exception to these regardless of wether it's Boeing or Airbus. As someone well pointed out, if 600 - 800 pax can't get out in "ideal" simulated conditions (ie in a hangar, no wind, no fire, rain etc) how do Airbus expect pax to do the same in the craap, from 30ft in the air when. Are they going to ban elderly, disabled and those with a fear of heights fromt he upper deck? I also feel that there is a difference between Boeings upper deck and that of Airbus's purely because of the difference in the number of pax in that compartment. ie: there are less pax to get histerical and frightened.

It's a good idea (even though I will confess a preference to Boeing Aircraft) but if they don't make the grade then they don't get the certification - PERIOD. They are obviously worried and so it is obviously a weak point in their aircraft which means they should be forced to do it more than ever.


PS - how about ejector seats for teh entire upper deck - that'll solve teh problem :)

20th Jun 2001, 08:06
Sorry, but I'm from enginering. Surely the problem that needs fixing here is a better evacuation method than primitive slides?

Engineering -- making the world a better place...

Through difficulties to the cinema

20th Jun 2001, 15:46
I fully understand them not testing the procedures fully. I'm currently designing a new type of seatbelt - out of spaghetti. Now, there may be a small possibility that someone might get injured during live tests. So I'm not going to test it properly and instead I’ll use my expensive computer to demonstrate just how safe my new Pasta Safety Harness really is.

The words “Titanic” and “…but there’s not enough life boats Jack!” spring to mind.

Capt Pit Bull
20th Jun 2001, 16:11
As I see it, evacuations are dangerous. People get injured. Only a few months ago a colleauge of mine was injured (not too seriously, thankfully) doing the slide from 146!

The real issue is what are the benefits of doing the practice evacuation? I don't view a regulatory tick-in-the-box as having any inherent worth, instead we should ask the following question:

Is the format of the tests likely to permit the discovery of information that will (a) allow changes to be made that will cause less people to be injured in the event of a real evacuation, and (b) is there truly no other way of gaining the information.

As far as I'm concerned, there can be no reliable test of a full evacuation - unless people are in genuine fear for their lives, and unless the test group contains a worst case load out of special assist passengers, with half the plane on fire (for real) etc. etc. then the test conditions are too poor for the data to have any reliable value.

As such, the certainty of getting people injured so as to gather useless data is reprehensible.


gravity victim
20th Jun 2001, 17:11
How about giving the slides a lightweight inflatable canopy? Would solve the fear of heights/falling of the side problems, and make a slightly more plausible secondary liferaft function.

20th Jun 2001, 17:47
This is just insane frog sh!t.

The usual gobbledegook you can expect from somene trying to defend the indefensible.

If you can't ensure the safety of "pax" in a relatively 'controlled' scenario what chance in a real emergency.

And why then bother in the first place.

Anyway I'm off to start rearranging the deck chairs guys.

John Farley
20th Jun 2001, 18:16
Can we open our minds a bit re evacuation problems? – Are there not two issues?

1 What goes on INSIDE the aeroplane prior to passing through the exits

2 What goes on OUTSIDE having passed through the exits

Professor Helen Muir at Cranfield led the way, post Manchester, in sorting out the variables of human behaviour inside the aircraft, leading to an understanding of how the interior and the exits need to be designed to improve flow rates. She initially did this using gantries built outside an old Trident for the people to exit onto. I don’t see why the internal arrangements such as door sizes and positions, lighting, effects of smoke, bulkhead layout, etc cannot be tested for the 380 (or any other large aircraft) using this (safer) technique.

For complete certification of an aircraft the slides, tubes or whatever have also to be developed and tested for satisfactory deployment in some very demanding circumstances. It seems to me this is a separate subject and can be dealt with as such.

Assuming this external work can be done to everyone’s satisfaction why do you have to stuff a full load of real (but probably totally unrepresentative people) down the system? Would that prove anything that that could not be better and more safely shown in the R&D lab?

64-dollar question:

Do we really feel any past certification evacuation demonstration has been fully representative of a real emergency evacuation in the same type?

Personally, I don’t think so.

For my money if we really want to improve evacuation safety we should be insisting on more realistic certification demonstrations of what happens inside the aeroplanes (present and future) and leave the external escape system development and testing to R&D labs using trained test subjects and or dummies or whatever. Just like car crash testing.

20th Jun 2001, 19:41
FULL evac tests have not been done on any type for many many years. So whats all the fuss over.

Its another big aircraft - so is the jumbo and there is no apparent problem there.

Lets wait and see.

Have a nice day

20th Jun 2001, 19:43
Hear Hear!
John Farley hits both nails on the head IMHO.

John, any chance of pointing me in the right direction so I can find & read some of what Prof Muir has written on this subject?
Thanks in advance.

Singularly Simple Person........

John Farley
20th Jun 2001, 21:36

You might try Dr Don Harris of her Human Factors Group at Cranfield University on +44(0)1234 750111


20th Jun 2001, 22:32
Just my 2pence worth.

I was a student at the time the tests were carried out on the Trident. It was set up at Teeside airport; money was offered for volunteers to perform the said evacuations. I couldn't go at the time due to studies (honest!), but one or two of my friends got on the payroll.

They evacuated the a/c safely several times with the doors working - no problem. Then they evacuated with some doors jammed - no problem again. Then they did it with (fake) smoke (having been told it would happen) - again no problem. Eventually they found a scenario which caused people to panic - become aggresive - fight - and cause actual bodily injury to several people. How did they achieve this? Simple, they offered an extra 10 pounds to the first 15 people thru the exits! (Actual figures may vary - but you get the picture)

Now - if that widespread pandemonium can be generated for a few quid - what do you think happens when your life is at stake? John got it absolutely correct - we should focus on what happens inside the cabin with people trying to get out rather than the actual method of getting someone to the ground without hurting themselves. A few broken bones - even the odd fatality - from falling a bit too far or too awkwardly is far more preferable than being gassed - burned - crushed - or whatever - inside the hull, which, by the way, is where most fatalities occur before the victims even get chance to use the slides!

Anyway, hoping it never happens....

http://www.pprune.org/ubb/NonCGI/cool.gif Underdog

20th Jun 2001, 22:59
I always wonder about the overwing exits, relatively small and a lot of very oversized people. Our way of escaping our freightdog are 3 ropes, one above each pilotsseat (try to get through that little window) and one at the forward entry door (the only door if there is cargo on board). Maybe Airbus needs to go to a system like the militairy uses on helicopter troopships

21st Jun 2001, 01:51
Ejection seats, 600 of 'em. And metrodriver has a point. Need to throw in about 20% obese pax, to be realistic by my observations, and watch them plug those holes and aisles.

21st Jun 2001, 02:23
Neither Boeing nor Airbus give the height of the emergency exit doors in their Web specs. However, the height from the ground to the top of the tail is 16.7 meters in a 340, 19.4 meters in a 744, and 24.1 meters in a 380.

The FAA's certification criteria for demonstrating commercial transport evacuations using emergency exits can be found at:


The composition of the 'passenger' manifest for the demonstration is rather interesting:
"A representative passenger load of persons in normal health must be used. At least 30 percent must be females. At least 5 percent must be over 60 years of age with a proportionate number of females. At least 5
percent, but not more than 10 percent, must be children under 12 years of age, prorated through that age group. Three life-size dolls, not included as part of the total passenger load, must be carried by passengers
to simulate live infants 2 years old or younger. Crewmembers, mechanics, and training personnel who maintain or operate the airplane in the normal course of their duties may not be used as passengers."

The demonstration must be done at night, or in conditions (inside the aircraft) simulating night The plane's normal electrical power systems are to be de-energized. Only half the exits can be used, and the aisles are to have normal clutter (carry-on baggage, pillows, blankets, etc.).

Given these criteria, the height of the upper deck exits, and the age distribution of the passenger population in the demonstration, could Airbus seek a FAA certification that prohibited carriage on the upper deck by passengers who were infants, minors under 12, or elderly over 60, believing it could demonstrate evacuation within the required time if these passengers were excluded from the upper deck? I can just see a 7 year old stop at the door and simply refuse to go down a 40 foot slide, and stopping the whole evacuation.

21st Jun 2001, 12:46
All emergency evacuation scenarios are different. The circumstances surrounding any real event are constantly changing, therefore a certification demonstration under semi-controlled conditions doesn't prove anything.

Survival is the name of the game. Injuries on egress are unavoidable.

21st Jun 2001, 15:25
These emergency evacuation criteria (written in 1978) are really a design standard: how many egress doors are needed to get x number of people off the aircraft within a specified time. Theoretically, increase the time, decrease the number of doors.

The issues with the upper deck of the 380 seems to be human factors and p.r. Assuming the doors are 13-14 meters high (a fall from that distance, if not fatal, will usually cause severe injury) and such a height will invariably induce hesitation and reluctance, on the part of some people to go out the door and onto the slide. I expect fire brigades could give you approximate percentages of how many people will hesitate before stepping to safety on a rescue ladder (with the fireman right there to assist) as the building burns about them.

The public relations nightmare that Airbus seeks to avoid, hence the computer simulation idea, is media headlines screaming of the 50 people who were hospitalized after testing the slides during a demonstration.

Computer simulations of proof of concept won't help lessen the pucker factor if its your life on the line. How many fighter pilots would take great comfort in a manufacturer's assurance that it had tested the functioning of the ejection seat on the computer and it seemed to work fine there.

From an acturial standpoint, the number of emergency evacuations using the slides is substantially greater than the number of crashes. The insurance payments for quadraplegia, paraplegia, and other severe injuries resulting from an actual emergency evacuation of the upper deck of a 380 could be astoundingly high. And might that lead to hseitation and delay on the part of the cockpit crew before ever ordering an emergency evacuation?