Viva Las Vegas

September 14th, 2015

All processes require a good checklist. Forms can be a chore in everyday life, but in a crisis, they play a vital role. When you find yourself at the centre of a crisis it can be very easy to lose your head, and small details of your crisis management plan can quickly fly out of the window. Only through methodical planning and testing, can you be sure to be fully prepared should the worst happen.

BALast week a London-bound British Airways flight burst into flames seconds before taking off from Las Vegas’ McCarran Airport. The flight had been taxiing down the runway when a master alarm alerted the pilots to a fire in one of the engines. As soon as the pilots were alerted to the danger they executed an emergency stop, and evacuated all 159 passengers and 13 crew members from the plane via the emergency slides.

After the incident the pilot, 63 year old Chris Henkey, was praised for the calm manner in which he was able to avoid disaster. Captain Henkey, who revealed that he was due to retire the following week, immediately called a mayday alert on notification of the fire, before proceeding to carry out the British Airways emergency checklist.


What could have been a major disaster was avoided, in part due to the experience of the pilot, but also because of the clear and precise manner of the emergency checklist.  Had the checklist not been available then the pilot would have had to think on his feet potentially wasting valuable seconds.

This was not the first time that Captain Henkey will have seen the checklist. Pilots are required to undertake regular simulator training, testing every possible eventuality, to provide them with the confidence to be able to act in the most challenging circumstances. Through the simulations, airlines are able to refine and improve their emergency procedures to know that they will work, should the worst happen.

Very few of us will ever find ourselves at the controls of a burning airplane, but we will encounter crises that test our own capabilities. Relying on your own instinct and experience is important, but it is a dangerous position to be left in for even the most experienced professionals.

It is only through having a clearly set out emergency checklist, which is regularly tested and evaluated in a simulated environment that you can have confidence in your crisis management response.

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