How to Survive a Plane Crash

How to Survive a Plane Crash
A plane flying in the air
Photo by Underexposed949

With recent stories about airplane crashes in the news, you might be thinking “What if…” these days.  Well have no fear, we've got the tips that will increase your odds of walking away from a worst case scenario.

By Robert Fure

An airplane crash might seem like a death sentence, but government statistics point to 19 out of 20 people surviving on average, or 95%, which are good odds by any standard.  The key to survival boils down to a few factors that you can take care of on the ground and in the air.  Like any catastrophic event though, some dangers are unavoidable and luck plays a part.  But, following these safety tips will maximize your odds of successfully navigating a potentially fatal situation.

Before You Board

One important element to your survival is how you dress.  High heels or flip flops won't help you move quicker and expose your feet to the dangers of tripping, being cut, or burned.  A good pair of sneakers, pun intended, will help you hit the ground running.  Long pants and long sleeves are preferable to not only protect your skin from the possibility of intense heat and fire, but also to aide you in sliding down the wing of an aircraft or down a slide.  If you don't like to travel all bundled up, at the very least wear clothing that allows you to move quickly, with little risk of snagging.

All experts also agree you should have a plan before entering the airplane.  Most airlines allow you to pick your own seat, and an aisle seat allows more mobility in evacuating in case of an emergency.  The closer you are to an exit, the higher probability you can reach it.  Studies have shown that the average survivor travels about 7 rows to an exit, so if you can get your seat within that distance, you've just increased your odds of escape.

A close up of plane instructions
Photo by Libraryman

On The Plane

It may not be the most interesting read, but carefully examining the safety card is essential.  Airlines today operate dozens of different models of aircraft, each with different safety exit locations and practices.  Reviewing the card can only help to prepare you.  While on the plane, you should count the number of rows between you and each exit – that way, if the cabin is filled with smoke, you can feel your way to the proper exit row and freedom.  All larger aircraft are required to have multiple emergency exits and you should have a plan for reaching more than one in the event one is blocked by debris, fire, or any other object.  While it may seem trivial, knowing the proper way to use the seat belt is also important.  During flight and landing, you should always remain belted – it reduces the risk of injury.  Once it comes time to leave, however, removing the seat belt is essential.  Put aside your bravado for 30 seconds and practice opening the clasp two or three times with your eyes closed.  A simple solution that may pay gigantic dividends later.

In Case Of Emergency

If the worse case scenario is about to play out, the first thing you must do is listen to your flight attendants.  They're trained to empty an entire aircraft in 90 seconds and they above anyone else know what they're doing.  They will instruct you how to behave and what to do.  The first thing you may be told to do (after remaining calm, of course) is to assume a braced position for crash.  If there is a seat in front of you, cross your arms and grip the seat, then place your head against your arms/hands.  This will soften any blow, help in preventing whiplash, and reduces the distance your head will travel during a rough landing, preventing sharp blows to the melon.  If there is no seat in front of you, or it is far away, bend down and wrap your arms around your legs and hold tight.  If the oxygen mask deploys, calmly place it over your face and continue breathing normally.

After the plane has made an emergency landing, the key word is speed.  While you don't want to blast down the aisle like Jesse Owens, you do need to exit the aircraft quickly.  Stay low, to avoid smoke, and move to your predetermined exit.  Don't be the moron who gets trapped because you're trying to grab your belongings. I'm not sure if you'll realize it at the time, but the plane has just crashed, is probably on fire, and you need to get out now.  If a slide has activated, jump onto the slide and land on your butt with arms crossed over chest.  When you get to the ground, get out of the way.  If you are over a wing, slide down the wing or hop off – the 15 foot fall is probably the least of your worries at the moment. If you find yourself at an exit that is not ideal, ask yourself “Rough landing or painful death?” and then make the jump.  In the event of a water landing, you should already have your flotation device around your neck but uninflated.  Exit the airplane, swim away and then activate your floatie.

A large passenger jet on fire
Photo by Eddie Hosa

Outside The Plane

The danger isn't over yet, as you know if you've ever seen an action movie.  Move at least 500 feet away from the aircraft, preferably upwind, to avoid the dangers of smoke, flames, and massive fireball explosions.  At this time, if you are in good health, locate any traveling companions or lend assistance to those who are struggling.  You should not, for any reason, ever go back into the plane.  You should avoid moving closer to the aircraft, as well, due to the risk of explosions creating debris.

If you follow these simple guidelines and keep your head, you may just find yourself as a positive statistic and one more person with an amazing story to tell.