Would You Survive a Plane Crash?

This week, something happened that hasn’t happened in the U.S. since 2009. A person was killed in an airline accident.

It was a Southwest flight. One of the engines blew out. Now jet engines contain a ring that’s supposed to corral shrapnel in such an event. That safety mechanism failed.

The shrapnel hit the fuselage, rupturing it. One woman was nearly sucked from the plane, but quick-acting passengers pulled her back in. They tended to her medical needs as best they could while the flight crew brought the plan in for a safe landing despite the lost engine.

Unfortunately, the woman’s injuries were grave, and she passed away shortly after.

Now I don’t tell you this to put you off flying.

I can think of a lot of reasons not to fly. Invasive TSA pat downs. Uncomfortable seats. Exposure to all manner of germs.

But flight safety isn’t one of them. Flying is about as risky as riding an escalator.

However… just because in-flight emergencies are rare, that doesn’t mean they don’t happen. And you should be prepared in case they happen when you’re on the plane.

Most plane crashes are survivable. One expert puts your odds of surviving a crash landing at 95% provided the plane doesn’t nose dive into the ground and explode.

But your chance of surviving a plane crash depends almost entirely on you.

To give yourself the best odds, here’s what to do:

  • Sit in the back third of the plane. I know, nobody likes sitting in the back. But if the plane goes down, the people in the back are more likely to come through the impact unscathed.
  • Sit as close to an emergency exit as possible. The real killer in a plane crash is fire and smoke inhalation. You have about five rows worth of movement before you become disoriented or begin to pass out from fumes. If you’re more than five rows away from an exit, that’s a problem.
  • Actually wear your seatbelt until the plane stops.
  • Wear sensible shoes. Surviving a plane crash is all about quick movement after you’ve come to a stop on the ground. Lace up shoes or sturdy boots facilitate quick movement. Flip flops, slip-on loafers, or high heels will slow you down.
  • Don’t wait to get off the plane. Once you’re on the ground, start moving toward the nearest exit immediately. A lot of people freeze and wait for rescue. A lot of those folks die from smoke inhalation.
  • Carry a bandana. If the plane is going down, before you brace for impact, pour some water on the bandana and then hold it to your face. It will help protect you against breathing in smoke.
  • Once you’re off the plane, quickly move a safe distance away.

Flying is a pain in the neck… but it’s also often the most convenient way to travel long distances. Taking a few small precautions means that if you’re ever in an emergency landing or outright crash, you have a high probability of walking away from it just fine.

You can read more about the recent ordeal aboard Southwest here.