Are there statistics about how many Aircraft emergency evacuation incidents (land-based) in the recent past (say, last 10 years) actually were followed by significant fires?

By "significant" I mean fires large enough to spread to the passenger cabins in spite of fire fighting attempts & which may conceivably have led to fatalities had passengers still been on board.

The context of what I am asking is: Are we doing a good job balancing the upside & downside risks of an Evac? Keeping in mind that most some Evacs can come with serious injuries to passengers.

  • $\begingroup$ On one hand the crews have the obligation to protect the aircraft occupants, and are aware of a problem, on the other hand they can't know for sure the safety status of the aircraft (excluding cases where they know there is already a fire, or the cabin atmosphere is hazardous). What can they do to prevent trials, injuries, or casualties, if not evacuating the aircraft? Whether this was necessary will be known only after the decision. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Feb 6, 2016 at 11:59
  • $\begingroup$ @mins I'm not faulting the crews. I am only interested in a post hoc analysis of the outcomes we have seen in practice. The "after the decision" part. i.e. The ratio of necessary to unnecessary evacs in hindsight. $\endgroup$ Feb 6, 2016 at 12:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_France_Flight_358 $\endgroup$
    – casey
    Feb 6, 2016 at 14:59

1 Answer 1


I doubt there is a worldwide statistics.

The accidents, where actual fire broke and did cause significant damage will be well known and listed on the aviation safety network. However the precautionary evacuations that turned out to be false alarms and when nobody was seriously injured may fall through the cracks and not get reported anywhere. They should be reported to the overseeing safety board and that usually publishes at least summary list, but the system works better in some countries and less in other [1]. And there is no central store for these reports in either case, so you could try to collect the numbers for one country (according to [1], the reports are probably most complete for Canada), but that will be too few cases for decent statistics and worldwide data will be incomplete to the point of being useless.

However, I am pretty sure the balancing is right. Not only do fires happen, but when they do, they are fast. The China Airlines flight 120 at Okinawa on Aug. 20th 2007 burnt down in about 5 minutes. The first explosion occurred just few seconds after the last passenger left the plane and while the flight crew was evacuating. So if they waited any longer, it is quite likely someone would have died.

In contrast most evacuations don't result in injuries and the few cases are mostly bruises, some sprained ankles and if someone has really bad luck, some broken leg or hand.

The broken bones (and not sure, but I think even the sprained ankles) count as serious injuries. So that's the options the captain is comparing. If they command evacuation, somebody might break a leg, but if they don't and the fire is real, somebody will die. And they must decide in couple of seconds for the evacuation to be successful. So they would obviously err on the side of caution and command the evacuation if they have a good reason to think there might be a fire.


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