When an airplane is going down, what does the cockpit or flight attendants tell the passengers?

By Dan Pepper– US Airways Flight 1549 successfully ditched in the Hudson River in New York City on January 15, 2009 with no fatalities. US Airways crash investigation gives an account of what was said in the passenger cabin:

For Darren Beck, Flight 1549 was supposed to be yet another mundane return flight back to his home in Charlotte. Beck, 37, a senior vice president of marketing forLendingTree, had finished up a few days of meetings with advertising partners. With his frequent-flier miles, he was upgraded to first class, where he was thumbing through a copy of Fast Company magazine.
The ascent was smooth and steady, he said, until the explosion on the left side of the plane. He looked out his window and saw trouble with an engine.
“I could see the fan blades were still turning, but they were obviously damaged,” he said. “It sounded like something was off balance in a washing machine — every time they turned around something went thump, thump, thump.”
The pilot made a left turn and Beck figured they were headed back to LaGuardia. He could only see out the side of the plane — not the front — and he had no idea that the Airbus A320 would soon land in the icy Hudson River.
His only clue came a few moments before impact.
“The two stewardesses, who were strapped in the front of the plane, started chanting in unison, ‘Keep your head down, brace for impact. Keep your head down, brace for impact.’ They kept repeating it over and over. I don’t know if they ever stopped.
“That made me a little more nervous. I could see out the window the water getting closer and closer — and I soon realized we were going in.”

By Nuralia Mazlan – Not me, but am only retelling the tale of my colleague who was once involved in some sort of crash when the back landing gear failed.

The captain briefed the crews before hand and give them time and expectations what could go wrong once he try to attempt the landing.

As this is prepared crash and they had about half an hour before ATC clear them to land (ATC was informed of the technical problems on board and have cleared a runway along with providing airport/medic aids standby just in case things escalated), the crews asked the passengers to take a moment to read the safety leaflet thoroughly. They instruct the passengers on how to do brace position, and what to do once the signal to evacuate is given. Everyone on board were dead silent and you can see fear in their eyes (the back landing gear has failed and the front landing gear catches fire before that).

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That was the first time my friend were really scared for her life. As soon as the captain comes on PA and alerted the crews by saying “attention attendants at station”, the crews started shouting their brace command (brace,brace, heads down, heads down). As the aircraft goes through the impact (it skidded off the runway), you can hear passengers screaming and shouting out of fear.

Finally it comes to a complete stop, and the crews open the door in armed mode and slide were deployed. They were all safe but the aircraft’s belly (fuselage) were scraped badly. You can smell the burn smell in the aircraft. As this is a boeing 737-800 where the slide deployed manually (you have to really push the door out to inflate the slide when the girt bar is hooked, unlike airbus where when the door is open in armed mode, pneumatic power will assist in door opening) passengers were pushing the crews to open the door immediately.

Suffice to say it was chaotic.

By Amar Rama –

As a flight attendant, we are trained to let passengers know if we know there will be an emergency landing.
This is how what we would do if the airplane were to “crash”:
Depending on how much time we have, we will then prepare the cabin to minimize stuff flying around and possibly injuring people or blocking potential exits and then passengers on how they can best protect themselves and on how they will be evacuating (if life vests are needed we’ll have you put them on to prepare but instruct you not to inflate it until you are out of the aircraft.) We try to then seat passengers with their children if they are separated and personally go over safety instructions with special needs passengers or children traveling alone. We also let them know what to do in the event we become incapacitated and unable to assist in the evacuation. Then we find able bodied passengers and ask for their assistance in pulling passengers off the slide once we evacuate and or assisting us. Finally as we prepare to land, as we are sitting in our jumpseat we do a mental review of all safety procedures.
Once we make contact with the ground we will start shouting commands for passengers to brace and protect their heads. This will go on until we see every head is down. Then it depends on the situation and if there is a need to evacuate.
Should we evacuate we will assess the exit to deem if it’s safe to exit from that door (we don’t want to open a door if there’s a blazing fire right outside of it). Then we will begin shouting evacuation commands. We try to keep an eye on the doors and if one exit is too congested we’ll redirect passengers to another more open exit. Also we watch for people trying to take anything off with them and we can snatch it out of their hands because at this point I don’t care if they’re carrying gold bricks in their luggage, that slide is our only way out and if it pops for any reason we are s**t out of luck.
During training we are taught that we are in charge of the evacuation and to be assertive. This is pretty crucial since sometimes people will try to do what they think is best but will end up making the situation worse for themselves or others.
For example the water landing on the Hudson River. Flight attendants know which doors can or cannot be used during what type of evacuation depending on the aircraft. A passenger panicked and went to the rear of the aircraft and opened the emergency door. This is a door that has auto assist meaning once he pulled the handle the door automatically opens in the armed mode and there’s no way of closing it back up. The flight attendants tried to stop him and close the door but it was too late. Water is now gushing into the cabin filling the aircraft even more quickly.
We know for that aircraft you never open the rear door if the aircraft lands in water (landing on land is okay, but never water because that particular aircraft lands at a slight angle in water).
After the evacuation, we scan our area to make sure no one is left behind and then we exit.
I’ve never had a “crash landing” but I have experienced an emergency landing. We were already at a very low altitude when we were made aware of an issue. There wasn’t a lot of time because we were already close to landing. Once my crew and I were notified that one of our aircraft doors was indicating that it was open. We immediately started moving and telling passengers to move away from the door, thankfully they were all very quiet and cooperative. A lot of passengers seemed confused but no one was asking “what’s going on? Or seemed in a frenzy saving us all precious minutes. They all followed instructions and we were able to safely move everyone quickly away from the door with moments to spare. Thankfully after we landed the door remained closed. Firetrucks were following our plane as we taxied to a jetbridge.
I’m not sure about every airline, but at my airline we are instructed to tell you what we know unless time constraints prevents us from doing so since there’s really no point spending time explaining exactly what’s wrong with the aircraft and why we have to do an emergency landing when that time could be spent on preparing everyone on what they can do during the emergency.
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