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CENTRAL VIEW for Monday, September 6, 2010

by William Hamilton, Ph.D.

Air travel: Dress for survival

Maybe the airline flying public needs to rethink how it prepares itself for air travel. Able-bodied airline passengers must not only be prepared to take action against on-board terrorists, but all passengers should come to each flight much better prepared.

Indeed, prior to September 11, 2001, you could tell just by the way many passengers were dressed that they just knew they would reach their destination without mishap. For example, look at the appallingly large number of passengers who travel wearing nothing more than tank tops, shorts and open-toed sandals. Obviously, it doesn’t occur to them that any aircraft, for a variety of reasons, could be forced to make what the FAA euphemistically calls an “off-airport” landing.

How would these barely-dressed passengers survive even a summer night stranded in the deserts of the American southwest? Not very well. With something like 85 percent of their skin exposed, how would they survive a fire in the cabin? Not likely. If they had to hike to find water or to run away from a burning or potentially explosive aircraft, how far would they get in those flip-flops? Not very far.

Those who board an airliner ill-clothed are not only a risk to themselves but they also impose a burden on their more provident fellow passengers who may have to act in the role of the Good Samaritan to save them from their lack of air-travel savvy. By placing their own comfort above being prepared to take care of themselves in case of a crash and the usual fire, they pose a threat, not just to themselves, but to other passengers and crew as well.

Having been eye-witness to several burning helicopter crashes, one can attest to the value of having as much skin covered as possible. To get yourself and others out of a burning aircraft, you need your hands. But if everything you touch burns your flesh to the bone, your hands are useless. Fortunately, simple leather dress or work gloves will work almost as well as the Nomex ™ flight gloves issued to our military.

For about 80 bucks, you can purchase a tiny canister of oxygen complete with a clear breathing hood. I haven’t gone that far yet; however, I’m thinking about it. If fire breaks out, the idea is to don the hood and activate the oxygen canister. Supposedly, you get enough oxygen to make it out of the plane and into fresh air.

But the more basic need is for every airline passenger to stop thinking they can dress for the beach while en route. Granted, the airlines would shrink from enforcing some kind of dress code. But there was a time, before the great unwashed could afford airline travel, when there was an informal dress code.

In the 1950s, everyone who boarded an airliner was dressed to the nines. Gentlemen wore: suits and ties, sturdy leather shoes, a coat, gloves and, until John F. Kennedy expressed his dislike for them, gentlemen wore hats. Ladies wore skirts or slacks, carried a coat, gloves, a hat and many even wore sensible shoes. Then, flying was new to most travelers and they demonstrated a healthy caution.

Unfortunately, some of today’s airline passengers have had to take on the grave responsibility of subduing terrorists in flight. They deserve our admiration and our praise. Surely, the rest of us can assume the quiet responsibility of simply dressing for survival.

This column first appeared on December 24, 2001. Edited only for space, it is reprinted as a public service.

©2010 William Hamilton.

©1999-2017. American Press Syndicate.

Dr. Hamilton can be contacted at:
P.O. Box 2001
Granby, CO 80446

Email: william@central-view.com

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