How Things Work: Evacuation Slides

De-plane in the fast lane

From the door and emergency exits of a China Eastern Airlines Airbus A330-300, evacuation slides are deployed. The fully inflated slide is 31 feet long. (Yusu Ren)
Air & Space Magazine

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According to Goodrich, the reason passengers sustain injuries during evacuation is that they ignore instructions and hesitate or stop at the end of the slide, making them collide with other evacuees coming down, or instead of sitting upright, they lie down and descend too fast. Targets on the slide and built-in light-emitting diode (LED) lights give evacuating passengers aim points for jumping on and off.

Because slides must often function as life rafts for as many as 87 people, Goodrich conducts trials off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, where ocean conditions closely approximate those set forth in FAA regulations for exit slide performance.

With proper maintenance, a slide will last 15 years. Every three years a slide is deployed, removed, inspected, re-tested, re-packed, and re-installed. The inspection cycle is a way to make sure that slides will perform as they did last August, when a China Airlines 737 arriving in Okinawa experienced an engine explosion, and all 165 aboard escaped safely on inflatable slides just before the plane burst into flames.


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