If you’re one of the 1,102 people who recommended the news.com.au article entitled “Emergency Exit door opens in explosion on Emirates Airbus A380” earlier this week, I hope you did it with some sort of disclaimer about the article containing almost no factually correct information. As most frequent flyer or aviation blogs and forums have quickly and correctly pointed out, the article was basically a massive beat up of one “terrified tourist’s” perception of the event.
So I thought it would be an interesting exercise to do some actual fact checking, you know that thing that a long, long time ago on a distant planet that resembled earth journalists did before publishing a story? So, here’s my quick dissection of the article (which you can read here providing news.com.au haven’t realised what a disgrace it is and taken it down) with a few facts thrown in. Granted, my story isn’t as interesting, but hopefully even from this arm chair blogger it is a little more accurate.
Myth # 1: Door Opening Mid Flight. “Emirates A380 door opened mid-flight”. I’m sorry but this just doesn’t hold water for a few reasons. Firstly, anyone who has ever watched an aircraft door open or close will have noticed that the door is actually a bit bigger than the hole in the airplane’s fuselage. When the door opens and closes it swings into the cabin first, then sort of rotates a bit before extending out again. This design feature makes it near impossible for the door to be “opened” while the aircraft is at altitude. The higher pressure of the cabin inside pushes the door towards the lower pressure outside, making a snug fit into the fuselage and no room for the door to just fly off. A few locking mechanisms probably help too.
Myth # 2: “Massive Explosion”. The tourist claims “hearing a massive explosion” and feared a “bomb had gone off” when the “superjumbo blew open at 27,000ft”, after which the crew stuffed the hole with blankets, pillows and gaffer tape. Explosive decompressions do happen, but when they do, you don’t fix them with a few blankets and pillows. Also, when they happen, the crew make a rather sudden descent to lower levels, oxygen masks fall from those panels above your head, you fit them within about 15seconds or you start to loose consciousness. Given that the tourist didn’t need the mask, the plane didn’t rapidly descend, and everyone remained conscious, I’m going to say that this wasn’t a “massive explosion” nor was it like a bomb going off.
It’s probably best to demonstrate this with a few pictures that I found on the internet of actual explosive decompressions. The first being that of a Qantas 747-400 that had an oxygen cylinder explode and punch one hell of a hole in the cabin, depressurising the aircraft and resulting in an emergency landing.
The second, a little more drastic and possibly the most drastic you’ll ever see that landed to tell the tale, is an Aloha Airlines flight which lost a massive section of fuselage. The common theme with these two images is that blankets and pillows didn’t really help fix the problem. Thus I’m going to say that this wasn’t a massive explosion.
Myth # 3: “We’re going to go down”. Perspective time: If those planes I showed above landed, then a broken seal, which is what Emirates and Airbus say was the likely cause of a “whistle” coming from one of the doors, was not going to bring down the A380. There have been many reports of getting ice build up around doors where seals have broken in the past, but in themselves they don’t risk the aircraft’s integrity. The crew may have put blankets and towels to reduce the noise levels, similar to what a hotel did to me one day when the wind was whistling under it, but it wasn’t done to keep the door from blowing off or to keep the plane flying. Perspective again, if an actual decompression had occurred, the plane would have descended and landed pretty quickly, however as it didn’t, it was just as safe to continue to the next port, land as usual and fix the problem there. The flight is only a couple of hours anyway.
Myth # 4: Private Pilot’s don’t fly an A380 for a reason. I’ve done some flight training before too, yet put me in an A380 cockpit and I’d almost guarantee to not know pretty much anything (other than there’s lots of pretty cool tech in there). Yet, any pilot, no matter how new they are to flying should have an elementary grasp of aerodynamics and understand that the pressurised cabin isn’t what’s keeping the plane flying anyway. Thus I’m a bit confused as to how our terrified private pilot tourist was so terrified if he knew from basic flight training, that all the things he says were going on to bring the plane down, really weren’t happening. Perhaps the CAA should get him to take his theory exam again before he flies.
Myth # 5: The Magical multilevel curtain barrier. Emirates Airbus A380’s have business and first class on the upper deck, and economy on the lower deck. Thus its pretty much impossible to close a curtain between the economy and business cabins as they are on separate floors. This myth doesn’t really need any science behind it and casts doubt as to if the passenger knew what plane he was on.
Myth # 6: The image of an A380 on the ground attached to the story looks more like a ceremony or something than an investigation.
Fact # 1: Eventually the article does quote some facts from both Emirates and Airbus spokesmen, which basically disprove everything that was said before. Of course before the writer presented actual facts, it had to pull the heartstrings of the now terrified readers with a history of the passengers previous medical conditions and the chest infection that he suffered as a result of the incident, both of which were pivotal to the cause of the incident.
I don’t pretend that what I or others like me write on a blog like this is always going to be 100% accurate, but lately I’ve found that it’s often people with a passion about a topic are putting out decent articles on issues, while the established media are just pumping out whatever error ridden rubbish they think will sell a few papers to the ignorant. Meanwhile, I made a grand total of 6 cents yesterday from my blog, while this article, which many readers will have read half of and taken it as fact, probably made thousands in online advertising alone.
The media love an aviation story, and with the Dreamliner still grounded I guess they were struggling for something to keep people afraid of flying and interested in reading their stories about how “terrified tourists” holidays were ruined by airlines negligence. However they get away with it because people keep reading it. So, next time you read one of these “Aircraft Disaster” articles, think twice before you share, like or tweet it, as its most likely just adding to a whole heap of ignorance and scaremongering around something that is one of the safest and highly regulated modes of transports around.
- Aloha Airlines Picture: http://aviationaccidents1.blogspot.com.au/2011/04/aloha-airlines-flight-243-cabrio.html
- Qantas Decompression Picture: http://luckyaviation.blogspot.com.au/2008/07/explosion-on-quantas-747.html