Ask Gadling: Does it really cost $25,000 to repack an airplane evacuation slide?

This question is obviously triggered after the JetBlue incident last week – when Steven Slater deployed the emergency slide, the media claimed the damage was around $25,000 just to repack the slide.

So, I did a bit of research, and contacted a friend who actually manages a large international airline. The answer was quite surprising – $25,000 is on the very, very cheap side.

To get the deployed slide back to its usable condition, they don’t just roll it up, they actually have to deflate it and remove the entire slide assembly from the door of the plane, load it into a truck and bring it to a certified maintenance facility.

Most large airlines will have a couple of spare slides, so they can replace the deployed slide relatively quickly, but they can’t use the plane until it has operational slides. The deployed slide has to be inflated again and checked for any leaks – then it is professionally repacked, and its inflation canister is re-pressurized or replaced. Only after it has been fully inspected can it be put aside while the airline waits for the next incident that requires a new slide.

The total damage on a commercial jet can be as much as $50,000. This includes the cost of replacing the slide, and the time lost when the jet is out of service. If the airline is lucky, the plane will be close to a facility that can replace it, in the worst case, they need to load a replacement slide onto another plane and ferry it in, along with a maintenance crew.

So there you have it – an evacuation slide is quite a bit more complex than the moon bounce at the local Chuck E. Cheese.

[Photo from: Flickr / Joel Franusic]