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You Don’t Have 15 Minutes for Fame: Stop with the Evacuation Videos Already

In a troubling trend, Friday’s emergency evacuation of American Airlines flight AA383 at Chicago O’Hare airport was recorded by a passenger on his mobile phone for posterity those 15-minutes of fame.

Passengers stopping to take possessions they believe they can’t live without is bad. Passengers stopping to take video which they and the rest of the world can definitely live without is worse.

There is the to-be-expected arm-chair Monday-morning quarterbacking on crew behaviour during the evacuation by people who lack professional judgement or experience to make these judgments.

Experienced investigators don’t post their critiques and questions on social media or on their blogs. Judge those comments by their source.

The NTSB will no doubt issue a thorough report.

For now, we know what we need to know: everyone got off the plane safely—despite these passenger delays. The crew did their jobs. 

We don’t need video for this.

Some commenters on the video argued that it might aide an investigation of the incident. If regulators needed video evidence of what happens in the cabin during an evacuation, they would simply require cameras to be installed onboard.

No regulator on this blue pearl has ever asked nor will ever ask that “volunteer video journalists” stop what they are doing, hold up an evacuation queue behind them, and take a poor-quality video to share immediately on social media.

By sharing these “at-the-scene” videos online, and distributing them on news outlets, we are encouraging this type of attention-seeking behaviour.

It needs to stop. The only way to stop it is for reporters to make a point of NOT USING these videos.

Yes, of course it’s tempting to have the thing which everyone is sharing online, but consider this: It isn’t a case of an ad-hoc member of the public putting his or her life in danger to document a news event. It is a person putting other peoples’ lives at risk to do so.

I cannot state this strongly enough: DO NOT TAKE THE VIDEO. JUST GET OUT!

A good rule of thumb: if the crew are shouting instructions your only rational response is to run. 

However, this is OK:


  1. These were actual journalists documenting an event.

  2. At the time of recording, emergency was resolved.

  3. There was no immediate risk to passengers or crew. It was not a “time is of the essence” evacuation.

  4. Note the lack of fire.

The FAA has done a great job of addressing runway overrun risks and continues to work on the TALPA program. The answer is always: Yes! The FAA needs funding.

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