Ever totally ignored the safety briefing when travelling on an aircraft? Carried on talking to a companion, listened to music, or read something? Now there’s evidence that far too many people do this, then when a crisis happens, they do the wrong thing.
Very recently there was a serious incident on a SouthWest Airlines plane at Philadelphia, USA. One of the engines suffered a major failure of a very unusual kind. Now engines do fail in flight, and planes are designed to be flyable with one engine out until the Captain can land at a suitable airport. But the unusual feature of this flight was that something broke up within the engine (believed at the moment to be a fan blade) and instead of remaining within the engine casing, it emerged and hit the side of the plane. This in turn broke a window, and as the plane was at altitude, there was a rapid reduction of cabin air pressure. Unfortunately a woman sitting next to the affected window was partly sucked out of the plane, and although fellow passengers pulled her back inside, her injuries proved fatal. Nervous flyers should realise that this is the first time in aviation history that a passenger has been killed or even injured as a result of such an incident. They are far more likely to get themselves killed or injured travelling by road to or from airports!.
The safety lesson is this. One feature in common in all aircraft safety briefings is the line “in the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop automatically from above your seats. Pull downwards to release the oxygen, fit the mask over your nose and mouth, and breathe normally. Fit your own mask before helping others.”
This is based on decades of flight operations, both civilian and military, and ensures that the maximum number of people (hopefully all) will survive the incident.
But on this occasion, many passengers didn’t place the masks over their noses and mouths, just their mouths, obviously oblivious to what they had been told before takeoff. We know this because others spent valuable seconds video recording the scene on their smartphones or tablets.