I'm pleased to say that I've not yet seen descriptions of passengers' behaviour during this incident as 'panic' (although I'm sure there are some out there!), and this seemingly small detail shows quite nicely how describing such incidents in this way rarely matches up with evidence of what actually happens. Studies of human behaviour in fires (e.g. Canter, 1990; Drury & Cocking, 2007) have shown how the maintenance (and even creation) of social bonds and structures encouarges successful evacuations in fires and other emergencies. In situations of uncertainty people can also look for guidance from others who have more experience on how to act in emergency situations. So, in the San Francisco plane crash, it seems that passengers waited for instructions on how to act from the cabin crew, and then exited the plane in what appears to be a very successful evacuation (so far there appear to have only been 2 fatalities- one of whom may have been hit by an emergency vehicle once they'd left the plane). Therefore, while such situations may very well be a highly stressful expereince for those involved, and any loss of life is a personal tragedy for the victims and their families, I feel we should remember that such incidents also illustrate the remarkable solidarity and co-operation that people affected can display towards each other.
Canter, D. (1990). Fires and human behaviour. David Fulton, London, UK