New Evacuation Techniques

by Anna Damski (British Airways) and Laurie Richardson (Boeing)

Laurie and I wrote this paper, when we were invited to give a presentation on evacuation techniques at the Civil Aviation Training Conference in Lausanne in the Spring of '97.

When an aircraft manufacturer builds new aircraft, they must pass many stringent tests as part of the airworthiness certification procedure. Some 30 years ago, the Full Scale Evacuation Demonstration was introduced as part of that certification process. The main parameters of the demonstration are that the participating cabin crew should be able to evacuate all of the passengers through only half the available exits in under 90 seconds. Boeing themselves choose to use crew who have not flown on that aircraft type and the only training given to them prior to the demonstration is a standard type conversion course.

Boeing developed and trained the evacuation procedures to be used by the cabin crew participating in the evacuation demonstrations. These procedures were used in all model aircraft evacuation demonstrations, and included specific passenger management duties, such as crew at an unusable exit proceeding into the passenger cabin, establishing a division line at a specific location, and actively directing passengers forward and aft of the division line. These procedures were used very successfully in evacuation demonstrations, and at the time, was anticipated by Boeing to be used as a guideline in operators developing their own evacuation procedures.

In early 1995, Boeing was preparing to conduct an evacuation demonstration on the new 777-200. At this time, the regulatory agencies stated that the manufacturers' procedures must reflect those used by the industry. Therefore, the evacuation procedures used for training the cabin crew participating in the 777-200 evacuation demonstration were modified to reflect evacuation procedures used by the industry.

The 777-200 evacuation demonstration with 420 passengers and 9 crew was successful. However, during analysis of the video taken during the evacuation demonstration, a number of areas for improvement were identified.

Operable exits were doors 1, 2 & 3 right and door 4 left. The initiation of passenger flow at the usable exits was slow; some of the crew did not exhibit assertive actions and had little impact on the rate that the passengers evacuated the aircraft; cabin crew were not staying in their assist space beside the door and as a result, dual lane flow of passengers out of some of the exits was interrupted or reduced; the door 1 exit dried up for 28 seconds while numerous passengers waited to exit out of door 2. The monitoring of adjacent exits and the cabin by the cabin crew was inconsistent, and overall evacuation performance was adversely affected. Boeing's Flight Training Department identified 5 training items which they believed should be emphasised in an airline's training programmes. A video titled "Evacuation Techniques" was produced which shows examples of those 5 emphasis training items.

They are:

Assertive cabin crew can accelerate passenger movement to, and through an exit. Crew must be forceful in their use of commands. If necessary, they must use physical force to get passengers out of the aircraft.

Dedicated Assist Space
All exits are designed to have a dedicated assist space either forward and/or aft of the door. Cabin crew must grasp the exit assist handles and position themselves correctly in the assist spaces. They must not allow themselves to be pushed out the exit, and must not interfere with evacuating passengers.

Role of Cabin Crew at an Unusable Exit
If an exit is unusable, cabin crew must block the door and redirect passengers to the nearest usable exit. Crew at an unusable exit must also remain aware of evacuation progress in adjacent cabin areas and at other usable exits and direct (or redirect) passengers as necessary to maintain equal flow to each exit. If passenger flow ceases at a usable exit nearby, cabin crew must take all action necessary to gain the attention of crew at adjacent exits to redirect additional passengers toward the usable exit.

Dried Up Exit
A dried up exit is a usable exit at which there are no evacuating passengers. During an evacuation it is necessary to maintain a balanced flow of passengers to all usable exits, minimising total evacuation time. If an exit dries up, and conditions permit, cabin crew must do everything possible to attract passengers to the dried up exit.

Exit By-Pass (redirection)
Exit by-pass, or redirection, means sending passengers from a usable exit to an adjacent usable exit. Exit by-pass is used to maintain balanced passenger flow to all usable exits. In mixed class aircraft interiors, passenger densities in the forward zone of the cabin are lower than in the middle and aft zones. Use of exit by-pass to maintain passenger flow at the forward doors becomes even more important in these aircraft.

In 1996, Boeing conducted 3 Full Scale Evacuation Demonstrations, one on the 767-200 with 351 passengers and eight crew, and two on the 777-200, with 400 passengers and 8 crew and 440 passengers and 9 crew respectively.

Although the first of the 777 demonstrations was with 20 passengers less than the original 777 evacuation demonstration, it was required because there was a significant increase in the number of passengers in zones B and C. Also, the demonstration was to be run with one less crew member, bringing the number down to 8 - i.e. the minimum crew compliment per regulations.

After a meeting with the Seattle FAA office, it was agreed that Boeing would work with the participating airlines - Britannia for the 767 and British Airways for the 777 - to present the 5 emphasis items for possible incorporation into their training programmes.

A team from Boeing met with representatives from the Safety and Emergency Procedures (SEP) departments of both airlines. During those meetings, the 5 emphasised training items and the video were discussed, having been greeted with interest and enthusiasm. Exactly how the items would be introduced into their SEP training was left to the airlines themselves.

At British Airways, following the meeting with the Boeing team, the Evacuation Techniques video was shown to all the SEP instructors and received an enthusiastic response. It was generally felt that whilst many of the emphasis points were already a part of BA’s SEP training, the video would help to provide a more formal, structured approach to evacuation training particularly as it placed as much importance in crowd control and flow management within the cabin as it did on effective emergency door operating procedures.

The 777 type conversion course was adjusted to include the emphasis items as a stand-alone session. In order to help cabin crew to remember the 5 items, the mnemonic ‘DARED’ was used:-

D = Dedicated Assist Space

A = Assertiveness

R = Redirecting at unusable exits

E = Exit By-Pass

D = Dried-Up Exits

The session involved video clips from the original evacuation, task sheets designed to encourage crew to come up with the emphasis items on their own and finally Boeing’s Evacuation Techniques video.

Following approval from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), this extra session was run with seasoned crew on a number of 777 conversion courses prior to the evacuation demonstration and was met with approval by the crew. The redesigned course was also approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the purposes of the Evacuation Demonstration.

At Boeing, a letter went out to all staff requesting volunteers to be passengers for the demonstrations. Meanwhile, at BA notices went up in all the Fleet Offices at the crew check-in centre requesting non-777 trained crew to volunteer. The FAA requirement was for a balance of male and female crew, rank and experience, with a pool large enough from which they could make a good selection.

The logistical task of pulling 30 crew off the roster for 11 days (including minimum time off following their return), training them, transporting them to Seattle and arranging accommodation across two hotels, was split between various management at Boeing and BA. To ensure everyone was kept in the loop about the progress of the plans, initially daily and then twice-weekly international conference calls were made, linking up all relevant staff from the two organisations. This meant that any questions which arose could be answered immediately or investigated, ensuring that the path towards completion was relatively smooth.

One of the interesting factors was the requirement for two hotels. The second hotel would be needed by the crew following their participation in the first evacuation. The FAA required that those crew remain sterile to ensure that the remaining crew would be given no indication of what to expect. In a small city like Seattle, this scenario had the amusing consequence of crew inevitably catching sight of one another. This prompted them to employ various avoidance manoeuvres ranging from crossing the street to abruptly leaving a restaurant they had just entered when spying others already at a table.

The crew volunteer list was well over-subscribed and a final group of 30 were selected. The crew reported in two groups for training on Friday 12th April at BA’s Cranebank Training Centre for the 777 type conversion course, which included observers from both the FAA and CAA. The following day they were flown to Seattle and given three days to acclimatise.

Those crew who were selected for the first evacuation demonstration were informed via a phone-call to their rooms at 06:00 and then transported to Everett. There, they were briefed and escorted onto the aircraft using a means which would ensure they would be unable to tell which exits were to be used.

Following the evacuation, the crew attended a post-evacuation demonstration briefing organised by the FAA. Various officials, observers and other interested parties were also in attendance. During that time, each crew member was required to give a statement of their actions during the evacuation and answer any questions either the FAA or CAA officials had.

Like Britannia’s 767-200 evacuation demonstration the previous week, both 777-200 demonstrations were very successful, with the results clearly indicating that cabin crew trained on the 5 emphasis training items greatly improve evacuation results.

In all three demonstrations, assertive actions and commands from the cabin crew were observed; crew remained in the assist space, which led to improved dual lane flow out the exits; they continually monitored conditions in the aircraft; communication with the other cabin crew was good; and excellent balanced flow out of the exits was achieved. The chart below shows the positive impact that the emphasis items can have on an evacuation.

Evacuation Times in Seconds per Door
Typical times corrected for anomalies

Door 1   Door 2   Door 3   Door 4  
1995    56* 86 88 88
1996 75 69 73 73
1996 76 73 76 76
1996 79 76 75 75

* Time excludes 28 second dry-up at door 1.

At the end of the debrief following the final evacuation demonstration, Lionel Virr from the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) stated: "I think there are lessons to be learned. I think the success of the evacuation was largely dependant on the improved, enhanced crew procedures..." Since then, the CAA have required that British Airways train all its current and future ab initio crew on the emphasis items. ‘DARED’ is now featured on all recurrent and type conversion training since October 1st and the session is now included in BA’s New Entrant Basic training course.

Since the 3 evacuation demonstrations, the Evacuation Techniques video has been revised to include video from the three 1996 Full Scale Evacuation Demonstrations. Each aircraft model’s Flight Attendant Training Manual and Flight Attendant Training course has been updated to include the 5 emphasis items and the video. Boeing has advised all of their customers of the 5 emphasised training items and the availability of the Evacuation Techniques video.

These three evacuation demonstrations highlight the importance of good training. The five emphasis items provide cabin crew with a clear strategy to deal with evacuations, where as much importance is placed on the role of non-door crew in controlling and balancing the flow of passengers towards exits as on the crew responsible for doors and the correct emergency door operating procedures. The significant reduction in evacuation times in these demonstrations is the result of a more co-ordinated approach to evacuation techniques, which, in a real and catastrophic situation, could save lives.

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