India Uncut

This blog has moved to its own domain. Please visit for the all-new India Uncut and bookmark it. The new site has much more content and some new sections, and you can read about them here and here. You can subscribe to full RSS feeds of all the sections from here. This blogspot site will no longer be updated, except in case of emergencies, if the main site suffers a prolonged outage. Thanks - Amit.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Look ma, floatation device

Whenever I travel on domestic airlines, I ask for a seat in an emergency exit row, because the legroom is much more there than in other rows. The only cost of such a request, a minor irritant really, is that if you take the window seat, the airhostess tells you, as is mandatory, what to do in case of a water landing. This always struck me as a waste of time -- a water landing was hardly likely on a flight from Delhi to Mumbai, no matter how bad the monsoons were.

Well, Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame now reveals that since 1970, encompassing perhaps over 150 million commercial flights, there hasn't been a single water landing. "So perhaps 15 billion customer trips," he writes, "have heard that 10-15 second set of instructions without it ever being useful to anyone."

His post, aptly titled "Airplane Nonsense," talks about some of the other instructions read out on airplanes that make no sense, framed, no doubt, by regulators who are far removed from the reality of the field they regulate. Do read, I'm sure you'll sympathise with a lot of it.

Update: It turns out that Levitt wasn't exactly correct about there being no water landings, as this Wikipedia page indicates. But his point is valid anyway, no?

(This error was pointed out separate emails from readers Suresh S and Arun Giridhar.)

Update 2 (June 13): Peter points me to a counterpoint.
amit varma, 6:58 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage

I recommend: