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Safety Briefing

Maybe it’s because I saw a very nasty accident when I was 20, over 50 years ago now.

Ever since then I have been almost obsessive about safety. Although I was happy to fly between trees in my Tiger Moth, happy to do low aerobatics over a girl’s house, I always considered the risks and took them into account.

Safety is no accident. Safety isn’t the result of just being careful, it’s the result of many many strands and threads of behaviour.

Car crashes are  generally avoidable. There are so many TV programmes making entertainment out of people’s stupidity on the roads. Stupid parents laughing when their children do mindless and life threatening things in their cars. Is it funny to drive one handed? It happens because youngsters watch their parents driving without considering the risks involved,  ‘demonstrating’ that driving is a right  and not a responsibility.

How can anyone take their eyes off the road and look at a camera to give a commentary as they do on Top Gear? Why don’t the police prosecute when there is so much video evidence available?  Because they think it doesn’t matter … they are Super-people, know alls who know nothing about safety cultures.

That’s why hundreds die on the roads. Accidents don’t just happen, there are always reasons. You may be the innocent driver but someone causes it, someone has failed to recognise the circumstances, conditions or situation.

In aviation we have a system of  avoid, trap,  and mitigate.  In other words have a system that largely prevents incidents, have a system that provides a way of limits their occurrence and finally reduce the effects if something does happen.

This diagram shows a pilots view of these things. From the bottom if you’ve got enough mental capacity think ahead an avoid things from happening. At the worse level where you only notice what’s happening  then all you can do is minimise the ‘damage’.  










So where are airline passengers in all of this?

Passengers who don’t listen to the Safety Briefing are at greatest risk if something were to happen because they are totally unprepared and will only just notice what is happening to them. They kid themselves when they believe that if they needed to evacuate the plane in an emergency they’d be smart enough, the adrenaline would kick in and they’d become Superman or Superwoman.


There’s enough evidence to show that unprepared people freeze. And what’s more they become a hazard.

You’ll freeze for a moment while you gather your wits, but you’ll have more than a head’s start over others. If you’re told to evacuate the plane, undo your belt and get out. Have a prepared plan with your partner as to which exit you’re more likely to use, who will grab the kids and so on.


Don’t be at the Notice level be at the Think Ahead level.  And you can only be there by listening to the safety briefing.

If you’re near someone who’s talking during the briefing … tell them to shut up. If you’re children are sitting by a window and the person sitting next to them doesn’t listen to the briefing ask the cabin crew to change their seats.

Ask the cabin crew to repeat the briefing if you can’t hear what’s going on.

Do not let idiots endanger you.

You may not feel that you have much to give in the way of flight safety, but as a captain, you, the passenger were one of my best resources for keeping everyone as safe as possible.

When I was first promoted to Captain in British Airways back in the 80’s I always asked my passengers to listen to the Emergency Briefing. My boss told me that I was frightening them. I told him I wanted them to be able to help flight safety and I’d continue doing it until he gave me a written statement that I should not.

The company decided that pilots should mention the Cabin Crew Safety Briefing in their ‘Welcome Aboard’ message. That is something  I look back on with great pride.

Please listen to the safety briefing. I doubt you’ll ever need to implement it  but … what does it cost, or … what might it cost.




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