Bravery in the face of danger

The Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash in San Franciscan on July 6 has its heroes who shouldn’t be ignored.

While much attention during the past week focused on the pilots and procedures in the cockpit that led to the big Boeing 777 being flown into the ground, it is impossible to ignore that hundreds of lives were spared.

And that is the result of the actions of the cabin crew and the designers, engineers and safety regulators for the 777.

The cabin crew certainly puts to rest the concept of the “stewardess” of the 1960s as a glorified cocktail waitress. The stories emerging from among the passengers this week included tails of cabin attendants doing their job of keeping their passengers safe.

While the pilots, sitting in the relatively intact nose of the plane were following basic procedures to try to keep the passengers in the jet until conditions were assessed, the cabin crew kept an eye out for fire. Upon seeing flames, they ordered the emergency exits opened and the slides put to use. There were reports that the crew even did what it could to fight the fire long enough to get the passengers securely out of the jet.

A total of six of the flight attendants were hospitalized, including three who were ejected in their seats when the plane’s tail broke off during the crash landing. The three survived. We’ll note that one of the two fatalities was not so much the result of the plane but the chaos that is the scene of a plane crash: The girl reportedly was struck and killed by a first responder vehicle.

The other lifesavers weren’t on the flight and their actions may have occurred years before the plane was built. Asiania 214 was a Boeing 777, a design dating back to its first service in June 1995. It has a 99 percent reliability rate, according to Boeing. The San Francisco crash is the first fatal crash of a 777 in commercial service. The only other aircraft losses included a landing short of a runway in London in 2008 blamed on ice crystals in the engine, with no fatalities, and a cockpit fire in Egypt in 2011, again with no loss of life.

The aircraft follows design standards calling for seats capable of withstanding 16 times the force of gravity, and that eerie photo of the interior of the ravaged jet shows something that should bring solace: The interior, but for the post-crash fire, is fairly intact. Seats stayed in their positions and did not deform appreciably. The plane didn’t crush its passengers but gave its hull to displace the crash energy.

Old pilots have a saying that any landing you can walk away from is a good one. The landing of Asiana Flight 214 wasn’t good, but the plane and its cabin attendants were top-notch.