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When a pilot declares an emergency, why does ATC ask for souls on board and fuel? First, aren’t the number of people on board on their flight plan and second, when seconds count, is it wise for them to keep asking when the pilots have a lot going on?

On July 15, 1996 a Belgian Air Force C-130 Hercules crashed at Eindhoven Airport in the Netherlands after hitting a flock of birds.

Unknown to air traffic control or emergency services, the plane carried 41 crew and passengers, including 37 young members of the Fanfarekorps of the Royal Netherlands Army. As the C-130 is primarily used as a cargo plane, rescue workers focused on saving the cockpit crew and putting out the fire.

After 30 minutes it became clear that the plane was carrying passengers, by which time most had already died. It is believed that many could have been saved if rescue teams had only known about their presence.

This is why souls on board is such vital information.

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