Scientist who took a flight that ran out of fuel conducts long-term PTSD study

 

Science Editor

A scientist who was a passenger on a transatlantic flight that ran out of fuel over the middle of the ocean has carried out a study to assess the long-term trauma of making an emergency landing at sea where everyone thought they might die.

Margaret McKinnon, a psychologist at Canada’s McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, interviewed 15 fellow passengers on the Air Transit flight from Toronto to Lisbon on 24 August 2001, who were involved in a terrifying ordeal lasting 30 minutes.

Halfway through the flight, the passengers were told to prepare for an ocean ditching when the pilot discovered that the plane had suddenly run out of fuel.

The 306 passengers and crew on board Flight 236 had to don lifejackets, breathe from oxygen masks and engage the brace position as the plane made a rapid descent to the ocean.

Five minutes before the ditching, however, the pilot managed to locate a military airstrip on an island in the Azores and safely glided the aircraft to a rough landing.

“My motivation was that this was a unique opportunity to study the memories of a group of people who had shared the same traumatic event,” Dr McKinnon said.

“Imagine your worst nightmare – that’s what it was like. This wasn’t just a close call where your life flashes before your eyes in a split second and then everything is ok. It lasted an excruciating 30 minutes and was extremely frightening,” she said.

The study found that all the passengers had a deeply enhanced memory of the event, whether or not they suffered post-traumatic stress disorder. Previous research had suggested than only PTSD sufferers were likely to have vivid memories of a traumatic incident.

However, Dr McKinnon and her colleagues compared passengers with PTSD with those who did not and found that sufferers had much stronger memories of other contemporary details of their lives that were not directly relevant to the actual incident.

“We expected people with PTSD to have the most enhanced memories but we didn’t find that. They all had enhanced memories. However, the passengers with PTSD had a better memory of ‘non-episodic events’ that had no direct bearing on the traumatic event itself,” Dr McKinnon said.

“This tells us something about the quality of the memory and how perhaps we should go about treating PTSD,” she said.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

    £26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

    Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

    Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

    Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

    £20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

    Day In a Page

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral