Surviving an Airplane Crash

Feb 15th, 2005, 11:51 AM
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Surviving an Airplane Crash

Did you realize that the majority of passengers who are unfortunate enough to be on an airplane that crashes are nevertheless fortunate enough to survive? According to an article in the Wall St Journal today, a study of 26 major commercial airplane accidents between 1983 and 2000 showed that 56% of the people involved survived.

But since most people have the fatalistic view that if the plane goes down, they're going to die anyway, most of us tune out the safety spiels. The WSJ lists these important precautions that can help you survive an accident:

 Know the exits in front of you and behind -- and count how many rows away they are. (This is very important because the cabin can fill with smoke and you won't be able to see the exits.)
 Brace for impact: Put your head in your hands and brace it against the seat in front of you.
 Leave your luggage. No laptop is worth dying for.
 Stay low; breathe slowly.
 Don't stop to take your shoes off. Slides are tougher these days.

The article also remarks that a wider exit row actually sometimes means more of a bottleneck, because two people will try to get through at once and cause a jam. Better to have a narrower space that forces single file. So I guess this might mean that we could expect the exit-row extra-leg-room advantage to disappear at some point.
nonnafelice is offline  
Feb 15th, 2005, 12:04 PM
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I love statistics.
56% of passengers in crashed airplanes survive. And, crashes are defined, how? Plunging to earth or into the sea, with also some of the relatively minor mishaps?
With an average of approximately 50-50 for simplicity purposes, 0% die in some, probably minor crashes, if there is such a thing, and 100% die in the other ones.

Bill Cosby used to do a comedy routine in which he suggesed that in order to survive a plane crash, just before the plane hits the ground, jump up and try to touch the ceiling of the plane. Makes as much sense to me for survival purposes as assuming a braced position if the many-ton aircraft I am inside of is hurtling to the ground at hundreds of miles per hour.
elaine is offline  
Feb 15th, 2005, 12:22 PM
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Unlike human beings it seems that cynicism will never die!
Intrepid1 is offline  
Feb 15th, 2005, 12:37 PM
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I haven't had time to read my papers yet, but from what nonnafelice quoted, there are some good points.

Most aircraft crashes - including major ones - happen during landing and takeoff. But if the plane is still on the ground, or made it to the ground, then there's a good chance of survival.

Take the Mandarin Airlines MD-11 crash at Hong Kong's then brand-new airport in 1999. The plane landed during a typhoon, flipped over on the runway, and the whole fuselage burned up. I think that qualifies as a major accident. Out of 315 crew and passengers on board, THREE died.

Or one that many of us remember. UA232 at Sioux City in 1989. Engine #2 of the DC-10 exploded mid-flight and the crew lost all hydraulic controls to the wings/tail. And upon crash landing, the plane flipped over several times. Yet, 184 people of 296 onboard survived.
rkkwan is offline  
Feb 15th, 2005, 01:29 PM
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Elaine, I read the article. I don't think the point was that EVERY crash is survivable. The point was the SOME are survivable and MORE people would survive if they were better prepared.

One thing the article didn't mention - that I've seen mentioned elsewhere - is attire, especially for women. If pratical, wearing long pants that are made from natural fibers instead of synthetic material, like pantyhose, reduces the risk of being burned.

If you want to pull up some interesting reading, find the old thread on that relates to wearing protective fire hoods on a plane.
Ryan is offline  
Feb 15th, 2005, 04:29 PM
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The previous poster is correct - clothing does make a difference - in a crash or even in an emerency evacuation,

for women - wear pants only - never a skirt - and a natural fabric is better. (If you had ever seen some poor woman slither down one of the evacuation slides in a skirt rucked up to her waist, with her pantyhose shredding and getting fabric burn on her legs and bottom - well - enough said.

Always wear flat or very low shoes - if your shoes have high or sharp heels you will have to discard them before evacuating - since they can rip the slides and endanger others. And there you are at the bottom - shoeless - walking on god knows what including possibly broken glass.

Really - isn;t this more important then being trendy - just for a couple of hours?
nytraveler is offline  
Feb 15th, 2005, 04:33 PM
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Natural fabrics are also better if you're hoping to survive the possible accompanying fire, at least without severe burns. This is quite unpleasant - but synthetic fabrics melt into one's skin, and natural fabrics do not.
WillTravel is offline  
Feb 15th, 2005, 05:46 PM
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Fodorites, please take note of all of the bullet points in this original post because 6 months ago I had to put this information to use. The plane did not crash, but we were in serious trouble when one of the engines caught fire on take-off. The plane filled up with smoke, and I sat in the brace position while making peace with God. Here is a link to the thread I wrote about this terrifying experience. I cannot stress to you all enough the importance of listening to the safety instructions. If you still choose not to listen, then if nothing else, look for the nearest emergency exit.

I would like to add that I am alive and well today for 3 reasons. Those are:

1. the grace of God
2. the skill of the flight crew
3. the speed and efficiency of the Houston Fire Department
P_M is online now  
Feb 15th, 2005, 06:24 PM
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My browser choked on that one. Here, try this:
Robespierre is offline  
Feb 15th, 2005, 06:31 PM
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Thanks for the new link, Robespierre, and sorry I choked your browser.
P_M is online now  
Feb 15th, 2005, 06:59 PM
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Thanks for the reminders. We all know (hopefully) what to do, what to wear, and then ignore or forget important advice.

So again, thank you for the reminders!

And safe trips to everyone.
LoveItaly is offline  
Feb 15th, 2005, 07:15 PM
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Know the exits in front of you and behind

I just made a four flight weekend round trip to Boston. Exit rows were available on all flights. I asked at the gate and got one on each segment, even using Hotwire tickets. Riding on the wing is the way to go.
hopscotch is offline  
Feb 15th, 2005, 07:33 PM
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Great thread, with some great tips!
rapunzll is offline  
Feb 15th, 2005, 07:48 PM
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Hopscotch, I was told last week by a Delta employee that emergency row seats are not ever assigned online (which is why I called) and rarely over the phone. Those seats are saved until passengers check in for the flight, according to this lady.

At least part of her story is true, as we weren't able to get bulkhead seats online. This is good news for those who fly last minute!
kswl is offline  
Feb 15th, 2005, 07:54 PM
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Man! As if my general fear of flying didn't need this at all! But I do thank you for the practical tips. I think I'll need drugs on the next trip, though.
StCirq is offline  
Feb 15th, 2005, 08:14 PM
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Exit rows and bulkhead seat assigment policies vary from airline to airline. And many airlines allow assignments for certain seats only to their highest level elite FF members.

For example, on Continental, only Platinum Elite can get exit rows or bulkhead seats online when they purchase their tickets. However, they are opened up to everybody during online check-in, starting at 24 hours before departure. But even when doing it online, one have to read and accept a statement declaring that he/she can understand instructions from the FA, and is capable of operating the exit doors. [An overwing emergency exit door can weigh over 40lbs, and is not hinged. You need to take it down with your arms.]

Other airlines have their own policies.
rkkwan is offline  

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