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Originally published Friday, January 16, 2009 at 11:05 AM

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Crash will get passengers listening to flight-safety demos

Passengers will be paying more attention to on-board flight-safety instructions after US Airways crash

Associated Press

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Candace Kolander has been a flight attendant for 21 years and in that time, she's noticed an interesting phenomenon.

Right after any type of airplane accident — not that they happen very often, she's quick to point out — "the passengers tend to pay a lot more attention to me when I do my safety demo," she said.

The attention doesn't last beyond a few days or weeks, but it's an understandable reaction, given how little attention people usually pay to the safety instructions that must, by law, be given before takeoff on every flight.

Kolander, who most recently flew for Aloha Airlines, made her comments after a US Airways plane landed in New York's Hudson River on Thursday.

Corey Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants, said the typical lack of interest among passengers in the safety demo is "frustrating," adding that when passengers do pay attention, they are better prepared in the event of an emergency.

Most passengers have probably heard the safety drill enough times to know that life vests should not be inflated inside the aircraft. They are bulky and could impair your ability to exit. Photos and video of Thursday's evacuation showed some passengers donning the yellow vests after they emerged from the aircraft; others appeared not be wearing them.

Aviation life vests are designed to be easy to use. Although different brands are used on different aircraft, Kolander said they typically "slip over your head, you pull the straps down and clip them in front, then pull and they inflate."

Caldwell noted that "not only do flight attendants receive extensive training in planned and unplanned water landings, they have to show proficiency on those techniques yearly through recurrent training."

Christopher Elliott, ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine, noted that "no one ever pays attention to the instructions. I was just on a flight from Orlando to Toronto and no one even bothered to look up during the in-flight safety announcements. I think I was the only one who bothered to review the instructions in the seatback."

After Thursday's rescue, he said, "in the short term, a few passengers will perk up during the announcement. But long-term, no."

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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