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Trip Doctor: The Lesson of Asiana Flight 214

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The cause of Saturday’s crash of Asiana Flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport, which left two dead and a number of others critically injured, remains under investigation. The latest reports from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) indicate that the airplane’s approach speed for landing was well below what it should have been. The pilots apparently realized the problem, but it was too late to correct it. The NTSB investigation—which could take months, if not years—will determine whether a mechanical failure or human error (or some combination or the two) was responsible. In the midst of intense media scrutiny, both the NTSB and the Air Line Pilots Association, the world’s largest airline pilot union, have cautioned against jumping to conclusions about the action of the crew in charge of the plane.

One thing that is apparent: the heroics of the flight attendants and other passengers who assisted in getting people quickly off the burning plane. Remarkably, 305 of the 307 passengers survived, a testament, as the Wall Street Journal reports, to on-board safety improvements (stronger seats; more flame-retardant materials), better crew training, and a nimble on-ground rescue crew.

As we wait for the final report from the NTSB, one lesson we can take away from the Asiana crash is the importance of airline safety-briefing videos. “This was a survivable accident,” National Transportation Safety Board chairman Deborah Hersman told CBS News. “And what's really important is for people to understand that airplane crashes, the majority of them are survivable.”

Aviation experts across the board say knowing exactly how many rows are between you and an exit is crucial—as is knowing how to operate emergency exits (and not underestimating how heavy they are). And then there’s the issue of ditching your carry-on luggage during an evacuation, as Joe Sharkey points out in the New York Times. USA Today also notes the number of spinal cord injuries to Asiana survivors—a reminder of the importance of assuming the brace position when possible.
 
For further updates on the Asiana story as it develops, check Travel + Leisure’s Carry-On Blog, as well as the NTSB Twitter handle.

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.

Photo Credit: © Xinhua/Xinhua Press/Corbis

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