Even though Air Transport is by far the SAFEST way to travel, air crashes occur every once in a while. Fortunately the industry is working hard to avoid such situations, and the number of passenger fatalities on revenue flights DECREASED IN 2007 by 20% to 631 from 790 in 2006. You have to look at these numbers knowing that more than 2.5 billion people travel each year on airliners. According to statistics this basically means that the chance of somebody losing their lives in an air accident is 1 to 9 million! This means that you would have to fly more than 50.000 times in your life to challenge your faith this way.
Most of the irregular operations on an aircraft however, do not end in an actual crash. But if you’re on that particular flight (like one of the 15 in 2007 that were involved in fatal accidents) there are a few things which you should know, which can actually save your life! The following tips can increase your chance of survival, so they’re good to keep in mind!
1. Wear long pants, long sleeve shirts and lace boots!
Try to avoid comfortable slippers or elegant high heels as they make moving around the wreckage much harder. Also loose dresses can easily get stuck which also make your moves much harder. If you know that the route will take you above cold areas (like Canada at winter or the Himalayas in Asia), take a warm sweater or jacket with you onboard. Following an accident one of the most important things it to keep the body warm. Long pants and long sleeve dresses may also protect against possible fire burns.
2. Sit in the back rows by the aisle!
In most of the cases, the crash itself can be survived and then you need to move away from the wreckage as quick as possible. For this you should sit close to an emergency exit and in an aisle seat! According to statistics, those sitting in the back rows have 40% more chance of survival than those sitting in the front.
3. Read the Safety Card!
It may be boring after a while, but let’s pay attention to the safety demonstration before each flight, and even take a look at the Safety Card as the information may be used. The emergency exits are also located at different parts of different aircraft types, you should note those before take off as well. If sitting next to an emergency exit, you should be comfortable about how to operate and open it. This could be your duty if the flight attendants get injured for example.
4. Prepare an Emergency Plan in your head!
If you know the plane is going to crash or emergency land, you have a few minutes to prepare before the actual situation. In this time, check the exits again, and possibly count the number of rows in between. This may be useful in case of darkness or smoke in the cabin as you actually may not be able to see the exit. Let’s try to identify the type of soil where the plane would land. If it’s water, don’t inflate the lifejacket as if the cabin gets filled up with water, it would press you against the ceiling, making escape impossible. Also if you land on water, take a sweater or the blanket along against getting cold.
5. Always fasten your seatbelt!
It may be uncomfortable, but keep the seatbelt fastened throughout the whole duration of the flight. Also make sure it’s tight, as in case of a crash landing, the distance between the body and the belt may multiply the g-force on the body. Also you should be aware of how to open the belt the quickest way, as after the accident, speed counts the most. If you have time before the crash, remove any sharp objects from your pockets (pen, pencil, etc., even eyeglasses) as they may cause injury. Best if you don’t even have those on you!
6. Take on an Emergency Position!
If you are aware that the plane will have a crash, try to chock up yourself as much as possible. Move your seat to an upright position, and take on one of the emergency positions:
A) If the seat in front of you is close, put one your palms on the back of the seat, cross the other hand and put the other palm on your lower arm, and move your forehead on the two lower arms. Never cross your fingers!
B) If the seat in front you is farther away, lean forward and put your chest on your thighs and place your head between your knees, take hold of your ankles with your hands.
In both cases, leave your feet on the ground, a little bit below the line of the knees. These positions also prevent damage to your spine at the crash.
7. Don’t move until the plane comes to a complete stop!
Most of the cases passengers survive the first crash, but the fuselage may “bounce” and most of the injuries happen at this time. Try to place your hand luggage under the seat in front of you and not in the overhead bins, as if a bag is there, it may prevent your feet or legs from being caught in that space.
8. Keep calm!
It is very hard to keep calm and not panic right before and after such a crash. Let’s think about which direction is the safest to go, and try to give maximum chance for your survival by thinking calmly about how to do it!
9. Take on the Oxygen Mask!
You should always take on your own mask, before helping others. In case of loss of cabin pressure these masks are only required for a few minutes, while the pilot navigates the plane to a lower flight level, where the outside pressure is high enough so that you can breath normally. Don’t be afraid to take it off and leave it behind after this has happened.
10. Protect yourself from the smoke!
In most of the cases, the fire and the smoke after an accident takes the most fatalities. The smoke inside the cabin is usually thick and has poisonous gases. The best you can do is to put a cloth in front of your mouth and nose. If you have a chance, make the piece of cloth wet, even with your own urine if there is no other way, it also reduces the risk of internal injuries if your bladder is empty. It may sound disgusting but it works and may save your life!
11. Leave the aircraft immediately!
The most important after a crash has happened is to leave the wreckage immediately! Don’t sit around stunned and waiting for instructions, GET MOVING as soon as possible. In the aisle or if it’s not possible, on the top of the seats, try to avoid crawling underneath as other passengers may bury you. If there is a fire or smoke, according to studies, you have about two minutes to leave safely. Quick evacuation is what helped all onboard to survive the China Airlines’ accident last year.
12. Leave your luggage behind!
You may have “valuable” things in your carry-on luggage, but leave them all behind, as the most valuable thing you have is your own life and such bags would only reduce your – and that of other fellow passengers – chance of survival as they slow you down and may get stuck, etc.
14. Check the other side!
Check the other side of the exit, as if there is fire or any other danger, it’s better to try on the other side.
15. Quickly move away from the wreckage!
As soon as you’re outside the plane, get away from the wreckage as quickly as possible, as an explosion or fire could happen at any second. At the same time, if your plane “landed” in a remote area, don’t move too far away, as the rescue teams will look around the wreckage for survivors. If we land on water, swim as far as you can. The best is to remove your shoes, and any other non-useful dress items in the cabin or before jumping in the water as those make swimming only harder, but don’t leave a sweater or a jacket behind.
16. Follow instructions by flight attendants!
In general, if the flight attendants have survived the crash, always follow their instructions, as they have been trained for such situations. They may not be nice, rather rude with short, straight sentences in a militaristic tone, but that’s what helps in such a case.
If everybody follows these instructions, all passengers can get out of a crash-landed plane very quickly, just take a look at this video of an evacuation test on the new Airbus A380 super-jumbo!
We hope none of us would have to use any of the items in this article, but it’s always better to be prepared!