For all the old cards may have had in terms of sex appeal, they often lacked in tact. They were textually expansive; often, they said too much. In order to justify the need for oxygen masks, one safety card helpfully noted that modern aircraft fly at “very high altitudes.” A Canadair card from the early seventies boasted that its lifeboats were “seaworthy, with great buoyancy.” This was in contrast to the plane itself which would, the card promised, sink before your eyes. An old United card offers this uniquely discomfiting warning: “move out of this plane fast. There is a fire-danger any time a landing is other than normal—particularly when the airplane structure is damaged.” No mention is made about staying calm. An Australian card confesses that the only means of escape involves kicking the window exit open with all of your might. VIASA, Venezuela’s former national airline, urges people not to be anxious when the alarm is sounded. It asks passengers to “keep your muscles taut to absorb the sudden impact.” Another card urges people to grab their warmest clothes before they jump into the sea. An Air France card directs passengers to the closest axe—no further directions are given.
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