How to survive a plane crash
1 | Pick the right location
The aviation industry tells us that there is no such thing as an unsafe seat on a plane and it doesn’t really matter where you sit in terms of safety. However, study by Popular Mechanics magazine examined every commercial jet crash in the United States, since 1971, (that had both fatalities and survivors) and it revealed that you are 40 per cent more likely to survive a crash if you are sitting in the rear of the plane than if you are in the first few rows. This is apparently why they put the black box at the rear of an aircraft. It’s always a nice little stat to remember when you’re getting on a plane and turning right into cattle class and watching the smug travellers turn left to sit up front in the expensive seats. Although they would die in lovely flatbed comfort.
2 | Make sure you book an aisle seat
If you are involved in a crash and need to get off the plane quickly then being in an aisle seat makes a huge difference. If you’ve ever been in a window seat and had to clamber over a sleeping person to go to the toilet you’ll know it can be like one of the ten tasks of Hercules. Now imagine trying to do that in the dark, after a crash landing, while the cabin is filling with smoke and people are running around like it’s a fire drill in a lunatic asylum. Those seconds you save being there on the gangway could save your life.
3 | Dress appropriately
There was once a time when people got dressed up and wore a suit to fly, but now air travel is common and passengers usually dress for comfort. So rather than wool suits and cotton shirts, there’s a lot more polyester and these are dangerous materials. In the case of fire breaking out they will melt to your skin turning you into human napalm. According the FAA only 20 per cent die on impact in a plane crash with the rest of the fatalities resulting from smoke inhalation and fire damage. The worst thing you could wear to fly is a football shirt, with shell suit over the top and plastic flip-flops – and not just for safety reasons, but because you’ll look like the sort of person who wears football shirts and shell suits on flights. For many, when scruffs like this turn up on your flight it is a comfort to know that in the event of a crash they’ll melt like the wicked witch of the West.
4 | Count the rows
While the a lady with more make-up than a circus clown is telling you about their safety drill and demonstrating lights and whistles for attracting attention, it’s easy to bury your head in a magazine – especially if you’ve heard it all before. There is, however, one thing you should take note of before taking off, and that is which was the nearest exit (in front or behind you) and one thing that they don’t tell you to do, count the number of rows to the exit. That way, if it’s dark and smoky you can feel your way along the seats and know how far you have to go. It’s also worth noting that although you may be nearer one particular exit, there could (on flights that are not full) be more people in between you and the door.
5 | Brace Position
There was an intriguing, and rather macabre, notion that the only reason you are asked to adopt that brace position was because it’s the best way of protecting your jaw and therefore making it easier for investigators to identify your body from your dental records. In truth, the brace position actually helps prevent injury and death because you compact yourself into a small shape and have your head against the back of the seat in front. This means that a) The g-force that throws you forward won’t smash your head into the seat in front as you’re already in contact with it. b) Your limbs are far less likely to flail about and be broken by objects that may be flying around the cabin such as bags, wreckage, small children who didn’t wear the seatbelt, and so on. According to the FAA the brace position is three times safer than sitting upright.
6 | Play the odds
While there are naturally many factors that can contribute to air crashes, it might be worth noting that AirSafe has collated data on crashes by airline and model of plane. In terms of fatalities, the plane that has been involved in most is the Boeing 737. However, that is a very common plane that has done over 135 million flights. When you work out a ratio of fatalities-per-flight, the most dangerous commercial plane in AirSafe’s figures, even though it only had one crash, is actually dear old Concorde. When it comes to airlines, based on AirSafe’s figures, you might want to avoid those of former Soviet States or those from China. It’s worth remembering though that even when flying with carriers in the bottom 25 (with the worst flight safety records) the odds of being killed are less than one in a million.