Air Travel: dress for survival
The flying public needs to rethink how it prepares itself for air travel. Able-bodied airline passengers must not only be prepared to take action against on-board terrorists, but all passengers should come to each flight much better prepared to take care of themselves.
Indeed, prior to September 11th, you could tell, just by the way many passengers were dressed, that they just knew they would reach their destination without mishap. For example, look at the appallingly large number of passengers who travel wearing nothing more than tank tops, shorts and open-toed sandals. Obviously, it doesn’t occur to them that any aircraft, for a variety of reasons, could be forced to make what the FAA euphemistically calls an “off-airport” landing.
How would these barely-dressed passengers survive even a summer night stranded out in the Arizona desert? Not very well. With something like 85 percent of their skin exposed, how would they survive a fire in the cabin? Not very well. If they had to hike to find water or to run away from a burning or potentially explosive aircraft, how far would they get in those flip-flops? Not very far.
Those who board an airliner ill-clothed are not only a risk to themselves but they also impose a burden on their more provident fellow passengers who may have to act in the role of the Good Samaritan to save these idiots from their lack of air-travel savvy. By placing their own “comfort” above being prepared to take care of themselves in case of a crash and the usual fire, they pose a threat, not just to themselves, but to other passengers and crew as well.
Granted, this observer overdoes it; however, after countless hours in commercial airliners, military jets, helicopters and my own aircraft, I have learned a few things about flying safety. For example, I never board any aircraft unless I’m wearing a long-sleeved shirt, long trousers and hiking boots. Moreover, I carry a leather jacket, a broad-brimmed hat with a stampede strap and a pair of Nomex ™ flying gloves. The gloves I don prior to each take-off and landing.
Having been eye-witness to several burning helicopter crashes in Vietnam and having had six helicopters shot out from under me in the span of over 3,000 flying hours in Vietnam and Cambodia, I can attest to the value of having as much skin covered as possible.
To get yourself and others out of a burning aircraft, you need your hands. But if everything you touch burns your flesh to the bone, your hands are useless. Simple leather dress or work gloves will work almost as well as Nomex ™.
For about 80 bucks, you can purchase a tiny canister of oxygen complete with a clear breathing hood. I haven’t gone that far yet; however, I’m thinking about it. If fire breaks out, the idea is to don the hood and activate the oxygen canister. Supposedly, you get enough oxygen to make it out of the plane and into fresh air.
But the more basic need is for every airline passenger to stop thinking they can dress for the beach while en route. Granted, the airlines would shrink from enforcing some kind of dress code. But there was a time, before the great unwashed could afford airline travel, when there was an informal dress code.
In the 1950s, everyone who boarded an airliner was dressed to the nines. Gentlemen wore: suits and ties, sturdy leather shoes, a coat, gloves and, until John F. Kennedy expressed his dislike for them, gentlemen wore hats. Ladies wore: slacks, carried a coat, gloves, hat and many even wore sensible shoes. Then, flying was new to most travelers and they demonstrated a healthy caution.
While today’s brave passengers who take on the grave responsibility of subduing terrorists in flight inspire our admiration and deserve our praise, we also need all passengers to assume the quiet responsibility of simply dressing for survival.
William Hamilton, a nationally syndicated columnist and commentator for USA Today, has been flying either commercially, militarily or privately for over 50 years.
©2001. William Hamilton.