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"Souls" on board

FlynChick

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Does anyone remember why we say we have "___ souls on board" in an emergency call, didn't it have something to do with if the plane crashes and with corpse's ashes or am I really off base?
 

avbug

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Some years ago I responded to an accident scene on a mountain pass. The orginal report as received by our dispatch had been froma tourist in a bus, who had been sitting up high enough to see the subject vehicle. It had gone over the top of a guardrail, and was in such a position that most vehicles coming down the mountain couldn't see it, because the hillside dropped off so sharply as to hide it from view.

The person reporting the vehicle said it appeared someone had parked at the bottom of a steep incline, as was outside the vehicle, probably "taking pictures of flowers."

On arrival, the guardrail was damaged. We had no missing persons report and therefore no accounting for the number of people who might be involved. The vehicle was a four runner, the back end ripped off. It had rolled over the guardrail and down the incline. I found the first victim, tripped over him actually, face down just below the guardrail. He had been ejected and then crushed as the vehicle rolled over him. Beneath the vehicle we found the other victim, a young lady who was dead about three days. She had crawled free, propped a folded sweater beneath her head as a pillow, and there she lay, clutching her chest as though to stay warm. She appeared to have fallen asleep, but was dead.

We ran the plates, made some calls. Yes, these two were expected home, and now they were accounted for. I began a hasty expanding square search of the area, and soon found a third victim some distance downrange. He had been thrown well clear, and was laying face down, his arms by his sides, his neck broken from impact. Some distance past him was the fourth and final victim, a dog, in the same condition.

We had no idea of knowing how many victims there were, who might be alive where, or even how far to search. The last two victims were quite a distance from the final resting spot of the four runner.

What has that got to do with your question, you ask? Fast forward a few years to a crew that crashed New Mexico. One crewmember survived the crash, crawled clear, propped himself against a cactus. He died there. He was wearing a sage green nomex flight suit. He blended in, he was hard to find. That company began issuing indian orange flight suits immediately.

In an emergency, when responding to the scene, knowing how many people to look for is a very critical piece of informtion. It's not always available, but it's important to know in order to get adequate resources dispatched to the scene. It's important for searchers to know how many potential victims and the scope of what may be a mass casualty incident (MCI). It's important psychologically to prepare everyone for what's to come. It's important for accountability. I can tell you from personal experience that when searching for survivors, the knowlege hanging over you that you may be missing someone is a heavy weight. There's a lot to be said for knowing you've got everybody you came for.

Likewise, you're asked to identify the amount of fuel on board. This isn't just to state how far you can fly, but what kind of threat responders might face when they get there. The color of the aircraft is important...I've known of cases in which searchers found previously crashed aircraft and reduced the scope of the search, or saw the debris and didn't recognize it. Last year I overflew a crashed Cessna 210 three times while searching for it at low level in the snow in a King Air 200...I was looking for something else, and didn't have much information...I overflew it and didn't even see it. All the information that one can get is always helpful. Conversely, a few weeks later another crew went out in that same airplane and quickly located a helicopter that had crashed under similiar circumstances...they knew exactly what they were after, from the number of souls to the color and type, to the habits of the pilot. By knowing that last bit of information, they went where they thought he would have gone, and sure enough, there he was.

Knowing how many souls on board is a way of making sure nobody gets left behind.
 

Brett Hull

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So what do you do if you're carrying a dead body? State something in the remarks?
 

flydrummer

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I think that Flyn is asking why the term "souls" is used instead of "people" or "passengers"
 

FN FAL

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flydrummer said:
I think that Flyn is asking why the term "souls" is used instead of "people" or "passengers"
Found this in the dictionary, looks like "meaning #2" is what you said...

The noun soul has 5 meanings:

Meaning #1: the immaterial part of a person; the actuating cause of an individual life
Synonym: psyche


Meaning #2: a human being
Synonyms: person, individual, someone, somebody, mortal, human


Meaning #3: deep feeling or emotion
Synonym: soulfulness


Meaning #4: the human embodiment of something


Meaning #5: a secular form of gospel that was a major Black musical genre in the 1960s and 1970s
 

lowtimeguy

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I read in an article ahile back in AOPA about the use of the word souls. My recollection may be faulty, but it had to do with remembering to count all on board, not just just the passengers....
 

Boxer

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So, someone.... does a dog have a soul or not?
 

Mr. Irrelevant

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The color of the aircraft is important...I've known of cases in which searchers found previously crashed aircraft and reduced the scope of the search, or saw the debris and didn't recognize it. Last year I overflew a crashed Cessna 210 three times while searching for it at low level in the snow in a King Air 200...I was looking for something else, and didn't have much information...I overflew it and didn't even see it.
You may have touched upon what I understood to be the reason for color of aircraft being reported. Particularly in remote areas or after freshly fallen snow. Depending on the color of aircraft and the conditions under which the search and rescue takes place, the grids flown by search and rescue teams varies. Maybe you said this in not as explicit a manner.

Mr. I.
 

FlynChick

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flydrummer got it right, I know very well why we give the info we give, but i remember being told once why we use the word "souls" on board instead of people, it may be because of canine or feline interactions, but I thought it had something to do with if the situation went downhill so to speak and body counts played a part.....
 

JimG

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avbug got it.

The first time I was asked that question by a controller, it sent a shiver through my body.

The second time I was asked that question wasn't any easier either.

It's amazing that damned 172 didn't kill me.
 

EagleRJ

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To summarize Avbug's dissertation, it's to let rescue personnel know how many people to look for.

The term 'souls' is used purposely, to ensure any corpses being transported are excluded from the count.
 

SkyBoy1981

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EagleRJ said:
The term 'souls' is used purposely, to ensure any corpses being transported are excluded from the count.
Ah hah, now that sounds like the right answer....
 

Occam's Razor

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EagleRJ said:
To summarize Avbug's dissertation, it's to let rescue personnel know how many people to look for.

The term 'souls' is used purposely, to ensure any corpses being transported are excluded from the count.
Sort of....

In the 50's there was a lot of confusion when pilots were asked how many people there were on the aircraft. They would respond with a pax count, or a crew count. The term "souls" is meant to imply all persons on the aircraft...crew and pax.

FYI, the ARFF folks expect us to include any intact corpses in the S.O.B. total. To do otherwise (according to them) would invite responders to count a charred corpse as one of the official S.O.B. count...and subsequently not continue to search for a missing person.

The Fuel On Board statement for ATC purposes is supposed to be in hours/minutes until fuel exhaustion.
 

Diesel

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A couple years ago i had to pick up a passenger who had been shot by this deranged lunatic in NH. I landed at this dirt strip in NH and picked up the body. (i had to provide my own backboard and neck brace from the local undertaker) I thought the boss was joking when he told me to go pick up the stuff at the "spring planters".

Anyways when i was filing a flt plan from NH to NYC it got to souls on board. I put only 1 soul on board since the other guy was stiff as a board (and naked).

While flying down to NYC in 100 degree weather the controller asked me if it was true what I had put in the remarks section. (1 dead body) I said it was. He gave me direct and said, "I bet you want out of that plane." As I looked at the sheet covering the body and his feet sticking up between the seats i realized he couldn't have been more right.

Unloading a naked man is a different story. But yes there was only one "soul" on board that flight.
 

FN FAL

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"...I've got soul, but I'm not a soldier..."
 

CUZ

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Souls on board is also meant to encompass the many infants and toddlers that dont have seats and ride on laps.
 

atrdriver

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CUZ said:
Souls on board is also meant to encompass the many infants and toddlers that dont have seats and ride on laps.
Generally they ask you for an infant count if you have time to get them one.
 

avbug

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You may have touched upon what I understood to be the reason for color of aircraft being reported. Particularly in remote areas or after freshly fallen snow. Depending on the color of aircraft and the conditions under which the search and rescue takes place, the grids flown by search and rescue teams varies. Maybe you said this in not as explicit a manner.
Search patterns are terrain-dependant, and generally at the discretion of the crew assigned the grid. Search patterns are not determined by the color of the aircraft.

Reference AC 150/5210-7C, "souls on board" specifically means "Passengers and crew."

(b) The following elements should be included in the transmission from ATC directing the Emergency Aircraft to the discrete emergency frequency (DEF):
• The frequency.
• A statement that ARFF will be on the frequency with transmit and receive capability.
• That the ARFF IC call sign is "[Airport Identifier] Command".
• When time permits, the following minimum information should be passed to the ARFF IC by ATCT or Emergency Aircraft:
"Souls on Board" - total number of passengers and crew.
• "Fuel on Board" - total quantity in pounds or kilograms. (see Table 1).
• Location on aircraft and type of any known dangerous goods/HAZMAT on board.


Appendix 5 of the same publication, listing Standard Aviation Pronunciation and Responses for Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Communications defines "souls on board" as:

"SOULS ON BOARD"
Total number people on aircraft (passengers and crew).


"All Souls on Board" is a maritime term, which came to us long before we had airplanes. Souls is specifically meant to address the issue of the living. Theologically, it is said that the Body and the Spirit is the soul of man. The body lacking spirit, or life, is not the soul, and is therefore not counted among the souls on board.
 

Icelandair

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We should include one more soul for a pregnant woman though since a growing baby has one.
 

FN FAL

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Icelandair said:
We should include one more soul for a pregnant woman though since a growing baby has one.
Yes, but in order for the pilot to actually count that one, he'd have to maintain visual contact.
 
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