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How to Survive a Plane Crash

Even after the Asiana Airlines crash (July 2013) in San Francisco, if anything can be pronounced safe, it's flying. Only about one in every 1.2m commercial flights ends in an accident, according to the National Transportation Safety Board in the US. In other words, if you flew every day you would expect to be in an accident about once every 3,288 years. But what should you do if you are one of the unlucky one. (The Guardian)

Listening to the safety instruction rehearsal might just save your life

According to a 2001 National Transportation Safety Board report, one reason passengers do not listen to to the safety briefing may be their belief that accidents are not survivable. But more than 95% of passengers involved in a crash survive.

Where should you sit?

No simple answer to this – all crashes are different and a safe spot in one disaster might get completely wiped out in another. In 2007, Popular Mechanics magazine gathered all the available crash data. They found that that those in rear seats (behind the wings) were safest – 69% chance of survival compared with 56% over the wings and 49% at the front.

Try to sit within five rows of an emergency exit. You are also slightly safer in an aisle seat.

Crash position

On impact, people are thrown around quite wildly so the idea is to position yourself so that your head and limbs will be fixed in place.

If there's a seat in front, cross your forearms on it, rest your head on your hands and plant your feet as far back as possible. If there isn't a seat in front, get your head low and hug your knees. If you have time, stuff hand luggage under the seat in front to stop your legs being forced forward and getting trapped under there and/or broken. Remove dentures.


Think ahead. You may be scrabbling over wreckage and running away from a burning plane, so no flip-flops or high heels.

Wear full-length trousers (jeans are good) and long-sleeved shirts to provide some protection from hot surfaces and sharp objects.

If you have time before the crash, remove sharp objects such as pens and glasses from your pockets so they don't puncture you on impact.

Do your seat belt up as tightly as you can. And keep it low – across the hips rather than the belly – to minimise damage to internal organs.

Have a plan

Listen to the safety briefing and practise unbuckling your seat belt – in the panic of an evacuation many people struggle with their buckles.

Count how many rows you have to pass, both forwards and backwards, to get to an exit. In a dark or smoke-filled cabin this could be vital.

Sitting next to a door? Memorise how to open it – a flight attendant might not be able to.

Obey the crew's emergency instructions – but don't wait for them. They may never come.


Keeping low to avoid smoke is not really an option – you'll get trampled or entangled. Put a wet piece of cloth (hanky, shirt, antimacassar off the seat in front) over your mouth. But how do you get it wet? Use water, tea, coffee or pee on it, perhaps.

Be prepared to clamber over seat backs to get to the exit but don't push people – that will just make them topple over and impede your progress.

Don't take any possessions – keep your hands free to help you get past obstructions.

(The views expressed in this page are for illustration purpose and solely those of the writers.)