Earlier, nearly 90 percent of the aircraft accidents were grouped as survivable or technically survivable. As part of this initiative, a range of new features are integrated into aircraft at the design stage. The aircraft manufacturing industry collected details of several fatal air accident incidents and identified the key issues led to catastrophes. As a result of those extensive research practices, the air accident survival rate has significantly improved in the United States for the last two decades. This paper will discuss the case ‘Runway side excursion during attempted takeoff in strong and gusty crosswind conditions: Continental airlines flight 1404’. The paper will specifically point out why this air accident was survivable.
The Mishap 250
The Continental Airlines Flight 1404 was a passenger carrier flight from Denver International Airport at Denver in Colorado to George Bush Intercontinental Airport at Huston in Texas. On 20th December 2008, at 1818 Mountain Standard Time, the Continental Airlines flight 1404 (a Boeing 737-500, N18611) skidded off the left side of the runway while taking off from the Denver International Airport. As an impact of the skidding, the flight crashed into 40 feet deep ravine which was several hundred yards away from the runway. During the course of the crash, the flight caught fire.
As described in Aviation Safety Network (2008), although whereabouts of Flight 1404 were unknown at the initial stages, firefighters could immediately respond to the disaster because the plane came to rest beside one of the four fire houses of the airport. When firefighters reached the accident site, right side of the plane had been almost damaged by the fire. Passengers were being assisted by flight attendants to escape through the left side. There were 110 passengers in the flight. The captain and 5 of the passengers were severely injured whereas the first officer, 2 cabin crewmembers, and 38 passengers sustained minor injuries. Luckily, one cabin crewmember and rest of the passengers escaped unscathed. However, the flight was damaged substantially (Aviation Safety Network, 2008). Evidently, there were visual meteorological conditions at the time of the aircraft disaster. The plane followed an instrument flight rules flight plan. Investigation reports indicated that a faulty air traffic control system and improper crosswind training in the airline industry were the major causes of the disaster. Why the Accident was Survivable While analyzing this disaster case, it seems that flight attendants’ timely responsive actions significantly contributed to the survivability of this aircraft crash. Although the flight attendants could not communicate with the pilots immediately after the aircraft came to a halt, they timely ordered an evacuation at the moment they identified the danger or fire. Since the right side of the airplane was almost caught by fire, three exits on the plane’s left side including forward, aft, and overwing were used for the evacuation process. When the forward and aft exits were operated by flight attendants, a passenger operated the left overwing exit. During the evacuation, three flight attendants and two other flight crewmembers assisted passengers to escape through less congested exits and blocked access to right side exits. In the opinion of Leib (2009), the accident was survivable because only left side of the aircraft caught fire and therefore passengers could escape through right side exits. Post-accident interviews revealed that even though passengers seemed frightened, they were greatly responsive to instructions and hence the evacuation pr