Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash landing: The avoided catastrophe

Asiana Airlines Flight 214 originated in Seoul, South Korea, crashed when landing on the San Francisco International Airport on July 6, 2013. Of the 307 people aboard the Boeing 777 two passengers died at the crash scene, and a third died in a hospital several days later. After the crash landing, the passengers and the crew were able to leave the airplane before it started to burn so that the accident didn’t result in more fatalities. This is due to the enormous advances made in materials design, fire safety, crew training as well as the airline safety research and analysis work done by the US National Transportation Safety Board NSTB.   

Very stringent fire safety demands for materials and parts used in airplanes play a decisive role in preventing the immediate outbreak of a fire in a crash situation. After a crash landing, the kerosene will take fire and engulf the fuselage, which will melt and propagate the fire to the cabin interior within minutes. Therefore, the evacuation of a plane must take place within 90 s for giving passengers and crew an optimal chance to escape without being injured or burnt to death. Modern flame retardant materials and components used in airplanes for seating, floor coverings, coverings, linings, insulation, wire & cable meet the high fire safety requirements regarding their ignitability, fire propagation and heat release. They also comply with low smoke emission and fire gas toxicity in the cabin interior, thus allowing safe escape for at least 4 minutes after the start of the fire.      

“The charred and broken airplane serves as a reminder of the remarkable engineering of modern airliners and safety advancements that allowed so many people to survive an impact that sheared the plane’s tail, snapped off an engine and scattered debris across a wide swath of runway”[1].

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