How to Evacuate an Aircraft After a Crash

By Jesse Sokolow on 15 May 2019
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Images of passengers emerging from a burning Aeroflot regional jet at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow, luggage in hand, made me recoil: Have we learnt nothing in the past few years about how to safely evacuate an aircraft?

Frequent Business Traveler last tackled this very important topic three years ago and little has changed, including the behavior of passengers exiting a plane after an emergency landing or crash landing with many clutching their belongings.

Experienced flyers and airline employees know better than to exit the aircraft with personal belongings. A bag, regardless of how small, can block someone from exiting the aircraft safely and will undoubtedly slow down the person carrying it and those behind.

To echo what my colleague Jonathan Spira said in his 2016 story on the topic, the command he learnt in various flight-attendant training classes he sat in on, namely “Jump! Jump! Don’t take anything with you!,” is paramount.

The National Transportation Safety Board came to a similar conclusion: “Everyone in the airplane could potentially be affected by these attempts” to take carry-on items with them it said in a study on emergency evacuations in 2000.

Bill Howard is a contributing editor at PC Magazine and a very frequent flyer. He experienced a crash landing in 2012.

“When I was in a plane crash returning to New York from the CES show in 2012, the aircraft was not gloriously aflame,” Howard told Frequent Business Traveler in an interview. “Still, I resisted the temptation to photograph or video the landing, nor did I carry my bags out with me.”

He says he exited the aircraft via a starboard side aft door and went down a slide, screaming in terror. He was the last person out the back except for the flight attendant at that door and the captain, who walked the length of the aircraft to make sure no one had panicked and was hiding under a seat.

Howard’s advice: “Focus on Job One: Find the nearest not-burning exit and, when the plane stops skidding, get the hell out.”


Evacuating an aircraft is common sense. If you find yourself on an aircraft that is being evacuated, just keep repeating the simple command “Don’t take anything with you” and head towards the nearest available exit. Your belongings can be replaced. You cannot.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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