Witnesses report

Jeremy Hermanns was on the Alaska Air flight that had a gash in its side and lost pressure. He gook Treo 650 photos of the scene and, thank God, lived to blog about it. Compare his account with the news account. [via Lost Remote]

: UPDATE: Jeremy tracks nasty, anonymous comments on his blog to an Alaska Airways IP address. When will they ever learn, when will they everrrrr learn?

  • Wise One

    And they still are trying to ban cell phones on airplanes!

    A cell phone would be a valuable tool for security in case of a hijack or an unruly passenger.

    Could the photos go out to the web?

  • Right of Center

    An interesting and frightening account. The plane dove quickly in order to get to a breathable altitude. This is SOP in a situation like this.

  • http://blogebrity.com Nick Douglas

    Blogebrity finally earns its citizen-journo cred.

  • http://www.ralston360.com peter

    Well this will be interesting. How will Alaska deal with the negative press? How will they deal with the rapid dissemination of the “passenger account” vs. the “official account”?

    Will you track, Jeff?

    By the way, I am already seeing the negative rants (are rants always negative?) about Alaska as if they deliver uniquely poor service. They don’t. In fact, I often fly them and they offer free craft brew beers to their northwest area flyers. Take that continental!

  • Pingback: Have Coffee Will Write » THE DISASTER THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN…

  • http://www.cuckoobird.net Matthew Price

    They should put the baggage carrier on trial for the attempted murder of all the passengers. How infuriating! Its so great to hear a first hand account of the incident rather than regurgitated editorial cruft.

  • http://www.kylebunch.org Kyle Bunch

    Looks like Alaska was good enough to respond….in Jeremy’s comments section (with some of the nastiest comments he got):
    http://jeremyhermanns.org/me/alaska-airlines-comments-on-my-story/

  • Richard Moriarty

    I don’t think Alaska Airlines will suffer to much for this. They currently have a monopoly where I live (Juneau, Alaska), and I imagine they still have a strong following throughout the rest of the state.

  • Pingback: » OMG! They tried to kill a Blogebrity Co-creator! Those…. The Blog Herald: more blog news more often

  • Pingback: POP! PR Jots

  • Joe I.

    I know of one major European company that actually has a three member department for the sole purpose of posting and countering online comments. They pose as anon posters and blogers for the sole purpose of getting “their” message across.

  • Barry

    This is why I don’t fly.

  • bago

    Heh. I like the way “Official” news story tries so hard to protect you from finding out actual information about the story.

  • http://www.askthepilot.com Patrick Smith

    From Patrick Smith, author of ASK THE PILOT:

    Here’s the text of a post I just left over at Jeremy Hermann’s place. I plan to incorporate this into my next column for Salon.com as well:

    Hermann’s description of the incident is a definite overreaction.

    That’s not to say the decompression was a pleasant experience, and I could never blame the majority of passengers for being scared and confused. However, a problem of this nature, from a technical standpoint, isn’t that serious. It was noisy, and no doubt disorienting for many of the plane’s occupants; the need for the crew to initiate a rapid descent was, I’m sure, frightening to those who didn’t understand what was happening. But it was not a life-threatening situation. The plane lost cabin pressure and so the pilots descended as quickly as possible to 10,000 feet. They did nothing heroic or unusual, and will be the first ones to admit it. As professional airline pilots, they did what they’re supposed to do. Any other crew would have done the same thing. The passengers, meanwhile, could breathe using their drop-down masks.

    Now, different kinds of in-flight decompressions can result in different situations — some more hazardous than others. Bombs, for example, can cause an entire fuselage to tear apart in fractions of a second. Large-scale structural failure, like the infamous fuselage burst of that Aloha Airlines 737 in 1988, can be similarly disastrous. But those are extremely rare occurrences, and that’s not what happened to Alaska Airlines. The breach was a small one, and once the cabin pressure had escaped, it could be reasonably assumed that the plane was going to stay in one solid piece and fly just fine. Which it did.

    Hermann reminds us that he’s a private pilot, but he also misinterpreted the smell of the oxygen generating canisters as jet fuel, and seems to have been just as panic-stricken as all those non-pilots around him.

    Best regards,
    Patrick Smith

  • Emily Lassiter

    I understand Mr. Jarvis’s advocacy of the “citizen journalist” but as Mr. Smith has noetically stated above, this incident, as are many eyewitness accounts, was a bunch of hooey. There can be value in it but the very emotions that arise out of one’s personal connection to an event can distort that experience and hamper the accuracy of the telling of the tale. Not to mention a layperson’s misunderstanding of what is actually happening as an event unfolds. (e.g. Mistaking a backfiring engine for a gunshot.) There is value in the accurate reporting of information, and just because a piece is filled with emotion does not automatically make it a better source of information than the staid “traditional journalism.”

    Personally, I’ve grown weary of the trite “It was awful”, “Things like that shouldn’t happen to people” comments that litter the local news and add nothing to my understanding of a story.

    Regards,
    Emily

  • http://www.askthepilot.com Patrick Smith

    A Post from Patrick Smith, author of Salon.com’s ASK THE PILOT column:

    This is one of those rare instances where the media actually got it right by downplaying the seriousness of the situation.

    Hermanns’ account of the incident, which he describes as “horrific,” and “the unthinkable,” is something of a lurid overreaction.

    That’s not to say the decompression was a pleasant experience, and I could never blame the majority of passengers for being scared and confused. However, a problem of this nature, from a technical standpoint, isn’t that serious. It was noisy, and no doubt disorienting for many of the plane’s occupants; the need for the crew to initiate a rapid descent was, I’m sure, frightening to those who didn’t understand what was happening. But it was not a life-threatening situation. The plane lost cabin pressure and so the pilots descended as quickly as possible to 10,000 feet. They did nothing heroic or unusual, and will be the first ones to admit it. As professional airline pilots, they did what they’re supposed to do. Any other crew would have done the same thing. The passengers, meanwhile, could breathe using their drop-down masks.

    Now, different kinds of in-flight decompressions can result in different situations — some more hazardous than others. Bombs, for example, can cause an entire fuselage to tear apart in fractions of a second. Large-scale structural failure, like the infamous fuselage burst of that Aloha Airlines 737 in 1988, can be similarly disastrous. But those are extremely rare occurrences, and that’s not what happened to Alaska Airlines. The breach was a small one, and once the cabin pressure had escaped, it could be reasonably assumed that the plane was going to stay in one solid piece and fly just fine. Which it did.
    Hermanns reminds us that he’s a private pilot, but he also misinterpreted the smell of the activated oxygen canisters as the smell of jet fuel, which he erroneously describes as “Av-gas” and “JP-4≤ (it’s neither), and seems to have been just as needlessly panic-stricken as all those non-pilots around him.

    (Not to the guy who doesn’t fly: Approx 17,500 commercial flights arrive and depart safely *each day* in the USA alone. We haven’t had a catastrophic accident since 2001.)

    Cheers,

    Patrick Smith
    http://www.askthepilot.com

  • Traveller

    Patrick Smith said
    >”Approx 17,500 commercial flights arrive and depart safely
    >*each day* in the USA alone. We haven’t had a catastrophic
    >accident since 2001.”

    So I suppose the wing breaking off the Chaulk plane last week, killing all aboard, wasn’t a “catastrophic accident”? So what would you call it, a “boo-boo”?

  • Pingback: CaNN :: We started it.

  • Pingback: tillnet: a journalist’s notebook » Blog Archive » Citizen journo takes heat for telling all

  • Chris

    “So I suppose the wing breaking off the Chaulk plane last week, killing all aboard, wasn’t a “catastrophic accident”?”

    He’s referring to a major airline crash. That’s not to negate the unfortunate loss of life in the Chalk accident, but the fact remains that a Grumman G-73T Turbine Mallard is not a large airliner.

  • http://www.askthepilot.com Patrick Smith

    Yesterday I posted a somewhat lengthy dissection of the Alaska Airlines event on Hermanns’ blog — basically a duplicate of my comments on this page, above.

    Hermanns twice deleted the entire post.

    I thought my comments were instructive and helpful, and I certainly have no association with the carrier involved. Yet for some reason he chose to censor them. It’s interesting, because he had no problem leaving up the many rude and offensive comments, but apparently deleted mine because — I can only assume — they didn’t fully jive with his contentions? And we wonder why people scoff at the notion of personal blogs as journalism.

    As for Traveller’s comments on the Chalk’s crash: admittedly “catastrophic” is a subjective term, but I was referring to major disasters involving large aircraft. The Chalk’s seaplane was a vintage commuter craft engaged in highly specialized scope of operations. Since 2001, no more than 21 passengers have been killed in any single accident in North America. That’s not to disrespect the unfortunate deaths of those 21 people, but to emphasize the smallness of the totla in proportion to the tens of millions of people who fly every year. I’ll be writing about the Chalks crash *and* the Alaska Airlines depressurization in my column next Friday on Salon.

    Best,
    Patrick Smith
    http://www.askthepilot.com

  • kl

    Hermanns twice deleted the entire post.

    He’s saying some comments aren’t showing up because of server overload. That might explain it if your comments were, as you say, “somewhat lengthy.” Did you try asking him?

  • kl

    Ah, I see you went ahead and made the same public accusation on his blog. Poor form, I have to say.

  • http://www.askthepilot.com Patrick Smith

    Poor form?

    I complained to Jeremy Hermanns about the deletion of my post and asked why he’d done it. Here is his reply (I’ve consolidated it for clarity):

    “Your statements literally amazed me. This was a careless accident caused by, and not reported by, a baggage cart operator creasing the planes fuselage. I was unaware a foot long hole tearing open in a fuselage at full altitude while traveling at cruise speed “isn’t that serious.” I hope you got paid a grip of cash to write that article. And, yes I did delete your technical fluffery; next time, try to address the situation at hand, not the imaginative one. Nice try – PR Hack!”

    For good measure, he included this postscript:

    “Please don’t reply — I probably won’t read it.”

    I was not addressing neither the cause of the accident, nor the matter of who was at fault, or why they were at fault. I was addressing only his description of the in-flight events, and the realities of a depressurization. Hermann himself had no idea how the hole was made, or who made it, until well after the aircraft had returned to Seattle.

    I’m the PR hack, while Hermanns is the one getting his mug splashed on newspapers and TV shows across America, describing the event as “horrific,” and “unthinkable.”

    Again, the dangers of the citizen-as-journalist

  • kl

    In that case, my mistake.

  • http://www.lrs3.com/blog Lou

    Patrick – give it a rest with the constant copying and re-copying of your post, on this site and others, showing the text “… in my column next Friday on Salon.” and “… Patrick Smith, author of Salon.com’s ASK THE PILOT column” as well as your own site’s URL prominently in your comments. A little less blatant self-promotion would be nice. You’re site’s URL showing up in your comment sig is enough, I think. If you are trying to establish your SME status, let your comment do that for you.

  • http://phobal.ca/ phobal

    If anyone was working the P.R. angle, it was Hermanns, with his theatrically mask-strapped mug splashed on newspapers and on “Good Morning America,” describing a loss of cabin pressure as “horrific” and “the unthinkable.” And it’s craftily moderated Web pages like his that make many people scoff at the notion of bloggers as journalists.