How to exit the aircraft in case of emergency — either by an evacuation slide on land or during a water ditching. Photographs ©2013 by Brian Cohen.

Some Survivors Grabbed Belongings as 41 People Perished in Airplane Crash in Russia?

Of the 78 people who were aboard the Sukhoi Superjet 100-95 aircraft — which operated as Aeroflot flight 1492 from Moscow Sheremetyevo airport on its way north to Murmansk in Russia — only 37 are reported to have survived a fiery crash yesterday afternoon, which destroyed most of the rear half of the airplane…

Some Survivors Grabbed Belongings as 41 People Perished in Airplane Crash in Russia?

…but the following videos allegedly show some of the survivors who left the doomed aircraft carrying their belongings as they walk away from the wreckage.

Could more people have survived this crash had some of those survivors had not first retrieved their belongings before exiting the aircraft?

Why Do Passengers Grab Baggage Before Evacuating an Airplane?

“As a woman, I don’t have the luxury of putting my most important documents, phone, etc, in my front pocket. If I leave my purse on the plane, how do I prove who I am? Fortunately, this has never happened to me, but you can be sure that if it ever did, I will certainly be grabbing my purse.”

The paragraph you just read is what Mom of 4 — who is a reader of The Gate — wrote in response to this article pertaining to the possible reasons why passengers grab their belongings before evacuating an airplane. The second comment which she posted was: “I use a small cross body bag when I travel. Hands free (and I don’t have to worry about pick pockets). And it is not in the overhead. You have the luxury of having your wallet in your front pants pocket. I don’t.”

This comment written by Ed I — who is also a reader of The Gate — was in response to this article pertaining to 5 reasons never to evacuate an airplane with your belongings

“The pre-flight briefing should drop the seat belt how-to and include a clear explanation of liability coverage in the case of an accident. Ok, maybe that sounds dull — but I suspect many people grab belongings because they relate it to ‘lost luggage’ in typical ops, where getting remuneration is exceedingly difficult. ‘Leave your stuff behind; we’ll replace it all. We can’t replace your life.’”

…but although leaving belongings aboard an airplane during an evacuation may seem like simple common sense, why do passengers grab their belongings anyway?

Several articles which I have read indicate that passengers may simply be used to retrieving their belongings when a plane lands — which seems to be common, no matter from what part of the world in which you are based — and people are automatically concerned about getting their luggage without thinking about the consequences.

“There are lots of psychologists with opinions but no controlled studies of the phenomenon. You can’t recreate it in a lab setting because you can’t put people in a life-or-death situation,” according to this article written by Richard Westcott for BBC News which quotes Ashley Nunes, who is an aviation expert. “Studies show that the likelihood of a cabin being consumed by fire increases significantly after 90 seconds, but those evacuation tests don’t account for people trying to take their luggage with them.”

Members of the flight crew train rigorously for weeks at a time to prepare for what no one hopes is an eventual occurrence; and that training includes instructing harried passengers — some of who may be in shock.

“The initial advice was to sit tight, which is good,” according to this article written by Mark Tran of The Guardian, which quotes James Thompson, who is a fellow of the British Psychological Society. “But then it gets confusing because you’re told to get the hell out. So the initial message is to freeze and the next is to flee. However, once you are told to flee, you should just go and not bother with the £100 you are leaving behind.”

Could passengers also be too worried about recouping the value of their belongings from the airlines, as inferred by Ed I?

Passengers seem to rarely listen to the safety announcements from either members of the flight crew or from a safety video prior to departure of the flight; and amongst the reasons could be complacency, boredom, disinterest — or all of those reasons combined. Airlines have attempted to ensure that their safety videos are more interesting and entertaining — but if they even watch the video, are passengers remembering what an actor did versus the actual message which the safety video is required to impart? Is the safety message coming across effectively — or have the safety videos failed in their primary purpose in general?

Perhaps the perceived adversarial relationship between airlines and their customers may have a significant psychological role associated with this phenomenon, as passengers may very well automatically assume that airlines seem to do everything they can to “enhance” the overall experience to the point of it being as miserable, stressful and frustrating as possible in terms of cost, comfort and inconvenience. Why should they listen to — or trust — the words from an entity which does not seem to care about them, anyway?!?

“The problem has vexed regulators because it involves human behavior, which is notoriously hard to fix. Among the solutions that have been suggested: beefed-up preflight instructions, additional training for the flight crew and overhead bins that can be automatically locked in an emergency”, according to this article written By Alan Levin and Mary Schlangenstein for Bloomberg. “A safety study the NTSB compiled in 2000 found that 36 flight attendants interviewed after evacuations reported that passengers carrying bags were the biggest impediment. Almost half of passengers involved in evacuations who had carry-on bags, 208 out of 419 interviewed, admitted to trying to take items with them, the study said.”

Even the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States has tried to alleviate this significant problem — but with little success: “If an emergency evacuation is necessary, leave your carry-on items on the plane. Retrieving personal items may impede the safe evacuation of passengers.”

Has Nothing Been Learned From Past Airplane Crashes?

“Some FlyerTalk members are irritated about the passengers taking their belongings off of the aircraft rather than leaving them aboard in the event of an emergency. ‘If I were king, anyone carrying personal items off during an emergency evacuation would get to watch as those things are then shredded’, posted FlyerTalk member lupine. ’That woman in front is holding not one, but two bags. What an idiot.’”

The above statement was from this article I wrote pertaining to the incident on Thursday, March 13, 2014 at Philadelphia International Airport where FlyerTalk member phlwookie witnessed an accident by an aircraft — which was operating as US Airways flight 1702 transporting 149 passengers and five flight crew members to Fort Lauderdale — reportedly caused by the collapse of its front landing gear as it was taking off. This article follows up on the incident with the recounting of the events by three FlyerTalk members who were there.

That incident was not the first time where passengers carried their personal belongings while evacuating from an airplane in an actual emergency — and it was not the last time, either, as demonstrated by the crash landing at approximately 12:45 in the afternoon earlier today of a Boeing 777-31H airplane which operated as Emirates Airline flight 521 and carried 282 passengers and 18 members of the flight crew from Thiruvananthapuram to Dubai.

“The aircraft however did not climb, but after retracting the gear touched down on the runway and burst into flames”, according to this article written by Simon Hradecky for The Aviation Herald. “All occupants evacuated via slides, 13 passengers received minor injuries, 10 were taken to hospitals, 3 treated at the airport. The aircraft burned down completely. A firefighter attending to the aircraft lost his life.”

This video by Keith Walker shows passengers taking their bags along with them as they evacuated from the airplane, which was completely destroyed by the time the fire was extinguished.

Whether any of the aforementioned 13 passengers were injured as a result of inconsiderate fellow passengers evacuating the aircraft with their belongings has not yet been determined at this time; and that no one — other than that one firefighter — was killed in this incident was a miracle in and of itself.

5 Reasons Never to Evacuate an Airplane With Your Belongings

I have been involved with what is known as Road Warrior Training — basically condensing a fraction of the intensive training endured for weeks by flight attendants into only a day or two — at the world headquarters of Delta Air Lines multiple times; and I have descended from an aircraft simulator multiple times as well using the evacuation slide which you see in the left side of the photograph at the top of this article. I remember one time where I came to a complete stop towards the bottom of the evacuation slide simply because I did not build enough speed — and if someone behind me is barreling down the slide and cannot stop, both of us could be seriously injured.

1. Even One Second is Too Precious to Waste

With regard to Emirates Airline flight 521, if every passenger on this airplane took only one extra second to grab their personal belongings before evacuating an airplane which is on fire, that would be 282 seconds collectively — that equates to 4.7 minutes — of time you do not have to escape from a dangerous situation which could cost you and other passengers and members of the flight crew your lives…

…and if the airplane is on fire, then oxygen becomes more precious as well — and staying on the airplane any longer than necessary needlessly uses up oxygen which could literally save the lives of others who leave the aircraft later than you.

We all know that collecting your personal belongings takes significantly more time than one second — and again, multiply that by 282 in this particular incident.

Please — get off of the airplane as soon as humanly possible.

2. Carrying Your Belongings Can Slow You Down Upon Evacuation

Assuming everyone is carrying their belongings with them, everyone still has to exit via the evacuation slide, as the fuselage of an airplane is typically too high off of the ground to jump or otherwise exit. Carrying belongings can slow each person down — starting with getting into position to jump and then slide while maneuvering how to hold your belongings to ensure that you have the proper balance to slide down as fast as possible.

As I already said, even one second is too precious to waste — and although you might get yourself to safety, other passengers and members of the flight crew have a right to reach that safe haven as well.

3. Injuries Increase When Carrying Your Belongings

Injuries typically occur when people use evacuation slides during an emergency — for example, a slower person can be injured by being hit by a person behind him or her sliding faster. The slides are steep and designed for the quickest egress from a dangerous incident. Add baggage and belongings to the mix and the likelihood of injuries — or even deaths — exponentially increases.

Imagine suddenly being hit in the head by a wayward bag speeding down the evacuation slide which is heavy and hard, as that can cause serious injury and potentially kill you.

4. Evacuation Slides are Inflated…

…which means that they are filled with air. Although they are constructed of a durable material, all it takes is one sharp object to puncture the evacuation slide. Voilà — the other passengers suddenly cannot evacuate.

5. Water Ditchings Can Be Even Worse

Attempting to carry your belongings during a water ditching — in the unlikely event where an airplane crash lands in water — is even worse. You will be wearing an inflatable life vest, which you do not want punctured should you need it to help keep you buoyant…

…and in the event that you and fellow passengers use an inflatable raft to escape, not only can the possibility of puncturing an inflatable raft increase and render that raft useless; but space and room are precious commodities when cramming as many passengers into a limited number of inflatable rafts.

Safety First

Many things seemed to have gone wrong pertaining to the fate of the aforementioned Sukhoi Superjet 100-95 aircraft, as questions remain unanswered at the time this article was written. This video shows the airplane did not explode into flames until after it hit the runway on the ground.

Was the pilot ultimately responsible for the airplane crashing onto the runway, which resulted in it bursting into flames? Why did emergency personnel and vehicles — such as fire trucks — seem to not respond in time? In fact, why were they not already there on the ground prior to the airplane crash landing on the runway?

Fortunately, emergencies involving airplanes are extremely rare in recent years — but employees of airlines who are involved in safety all agree that even one fatality resulting from an airplane emergency is one death too many; and even one critical error can drastically alter the outcome and result of an emergency situation, which can happen at any time with any airplane.

Being prepared for an emergency situation — and knowing what to do — can also be the critical difference between life and death for anyone aboard the aircraft. For valuable information pertaining to what to do in the event of an emergency aboard an airplane, please refer to the following articles which I wrote:


I have read countless times about how some people tend to think irrationally during an actual emergency. Chastising people for doing what they are not supposed to do is easy when one is not involved and viewing a situation from afar…

…but what would we really do — and how would we really act — if we were involved in an actual evacuation of an airplane or some other critical emergency?

“Thompson suggested that airlines should have an emergency door in the airport waiting lounge for passengers to practise opening in the waiting lounge if they wanted to have really effective safety warnings.” That does seem like a good idea which would possibly better prepare passengers in the unlikely event of an actual emergency…

…but complacency amongst passengers is understandable, as people rarely ever think about the potential dangers of flying inside of a metal tube which is zooming across the skies at 550 miles per hour — primarily because commercial aviation is thankfully safer than ever, despite the recent airplane crashes in Russia and Iran from which no survivors emerged.

Keep in mind that burning up precious time for your safety and ensuring that your belongings are also safe is purely selfish and thoughtless, as that is time spent which could literally save lives — including yours.

Remember that your belongings can always be replaced; but your life cannot be replaced. Is retrieving that portable electronic device really worth sacrificing the life of someone?

I keep important items in my front pants pockets at all times — such as a mobile telephone, credit cards, passport and cash to name a few items which will not impede upon evacuating from an airplane in any way whatsoever. I do not keep anything in my back pocket, as that is one of the parts which will be in contact with the evacuation slide and could potentially impede upon my egress from the airplane down to the ground.

Although recording the emergency situation with your portable electronic device can potentially be useful for learning and informational purposes, that too can delay your egress and those of your passengers — especially when you are not completely concentrating on your escape.

As for the video of some of the passengers seemingly walking away with their belongings from the burning airplane while 41 people were being burned alive in the fire — well, I find that incredibly disturbing, selfish and disgraceful if that is what actually happened.

If you have experience as a flight attendant or have been in an actual emergency situation with an airplane, please feel free to impart additional information in the Comments section to assist with the safety of fellow readers of The Gate.

In the meantime, this article will conclude with this comment which was posted by Christian, who is a reader of The Gate: “As long as the passengers who want to exit with baggage are willing to let the passengers without baggage to exit first, I’m perfectly agreeable with the situation. If there’s an emergency exodus and people want to stop to gather belongings, I will do what’s needed to allow myself, my family, and other normal passengers to exit without being delayed. If you want to take your stuff, have a seat and wait for the people who want to leave in a hurry.”

All photographs at the top of this article ©2013 by Brian Cohen.

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