International Regulations for Safety in Case of Forced Sea Landings

Herewith the verbatim text of the seat-pocket safety brochure from 1957 issued to passengers on Iberia Airlines’ then-fleet of  DC-3s. With only a minimum of “improvements” (who could resist?) and no condescension, Robert Graves used it as the basis for a comic sketch imagining the exchange between two office-bound Iberia employees given the job of drafting instructions for what to do in an emergency at sea, drawing on their command of English and assumed familiarity with the odd ways of British tourists. Although none of the characters in it says “Dash it all!” I’ve always read it as an affectionate homage to P.G. Wodehouse, who, as it turns out, was at school with Graves’ older brother. The story is called “Ditching in a Fishless Sea” and it can be found in the collection Majorca Observed. This is the original that inspired the short story, the authentic set of instructions Iberia issued to passengers on its mid-haul flights of the fifties.

(Does exhuming this strike anyone as a cheap shot at the resolutely Europeanized, educated, well-travelled Spaniards of the year 2012? Well, just last week, on the Calle Cádiz, in the raucous heart of Madrid’s tapa-rich quarter just off the Puerta del Sol (go see if I’m making this up) one celebrated bar
was trumpeting“calluses and beans” as  the plat du jour. The dictionary will confirm that callos refers to a common podiatric issue as well as to the tripe essential to that signature casserole dish, callos a la madrileña. But as any old Spain hand knows, once you get started on the subject, there is just no end to it.


Provision and an elementary knowledge of the ambient protect the man in his activities; ignorance, on the contrary, attacks, makes or increases danger inherent to all existing. In communities and regarding transportation, shows, sports, etc., rules leading to a better result are published by their respective organizations, always that these rules are kept wholly. To day this is a must in the air services.

In the most improbable case of ditching, passenger’s life depends on his conduct, as the crew knows quite well what they have to do in such cases not only for their own reputation but for the Company’s and in the first place for the life of the passenger.

Remember that with a few exceptions, there is time enough to get ready in case of ditching and that life waist coats figures 1 and 2A-1B and 1C may keep afloat any person without danger even in the state of unconsciousness and dingies are fit to hold the overweight as well; they are inflated with great rapidity, figure 6, and are revised carefully periodically,

In case of sinking passengers should know that the radio listening station on duty does not even miss the lack of reports and therefore the aid is immediate taking only a short time to come to the spot; furthermore the water the plane is flying over is not dangerous either by large fish or by extreme temperatures.

Therefore the passenger, if following the instructions below and those supplementary given him from the cockpit with order and confidence he will succeed in his own safety.

Should ditching have to be faced, the following instructions will be given to passengers:

Take off your spectacles

Loose your tie and collar as well as belts, braces, etc.

Empty your pockets of pointed articles as pens, pencils, etc.

Take off shoes.

Wear light clothes.

Put on the life waist coat as indicated in figures A1 to 7, B1 to 5 and C1 to 5.

Place the bulks under the legs and adopt the position according to figure A9 and the number of seat.

Fix up your belt.

Passengers before an imminent ditching should have to do the following:

To contract hardly their muscles.

To breathe deeply.

To keep motionless and quiet until the plane is absolutely stop still.

Soon after this, they will loose the belts and shoes to leave the plane by the nearest exit. When head and body have gone complete through the door or the window and according to figure A7, passengers will pull from the inflation string of the waist coast throwing themselves into the water without fear being sure they are safe.

Passengers should not worry if the transfer is difficult directly into the dingy because the string with reel will be thrown to take them on board as in figure 6, bearing in mind that this is an easy operation.

Do not desinflate your waist coat until you are on the boat that will take you to the harbour, passengers must avoid slippering on the stairs rubber or wet wood to prevent falling again into the water.

Children in their life waist coat should be left to persons keeping a better spirit and nearest the exit.

Fat persons as well as invalids should leave the plane by the main exit but always letting others to come out first.

It is very important to keep strict silence to facilitate the manoeuvres and commands.

Passengers should also know the material the dingies are made of and see that IBERIA, whose results without accidents per km. flown is so wonderful per year, is trying to better everything, regarding transportation and specially in connection with safety.


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