Surviving a Plane Crash: Where You Sit Could Be The Difference Between Life and Death

PHOTO: Asiana flight crashed at San Francisco Airport
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The harrowing Asiana Airlines crash at San Francisco International Airport may incite fear in the minds of the millions of Americans who take to the skies every year, but it also proves that even horrific disasters are survivable.

The San Francisco-bound flight was carrying more than 300 people Saturday when crashed on the runway, tore its tail and burst into flames.

Two 16-year-old female students from China were killed, and 181 people were injured in the crash. The injured were being cared for at several hospitals, and at least 22 were in critical condition.

San Francisco Plane Crash: 2 Killed in Asiana Crash Were Teenage Girls on School Trip from China

While only one in 1.2 million flights end up in an accident, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, there are still precautions passengers can take to prepare for emergency situations.

Experts say where you sit on a plane may prove to be the difference between life and death in a crash.

Professor Ed Galea of the University of Greenwich, who has spent more than 25 years analyzing how humans react in emergencies, advised that the seconds before impact are the most dangerous.

"You are responsible for your life," Galea said. "If you know what you're doing, you've got a better chance of surviving."

One flying rule of thumb? Sit as close to an exit as possible.

Galea studied the seating charts of more than 100 plane crashes and interviewed dozens of survivors. He uncovered that survivors move an average of five rows before safely exiting a burning plane. He also found seats in the rear of a plane were generally safer, as were aisle seats.

The survival rate in U.S. plane crashes from 1983 to 2000 was 95 percent, according to the NTSB. But if the plan does crash, it's important to remember to not panic.

"If you haven't thought about what you might do and prepared, the thing becomes overwhelming and you shut down," Galea said. "You can prepare yourself to react appropriately in emergency situations."

How to Survive a Plane Crash, Train Crash and Other Disasters

Airborne travelers may also want to remember to take time to brace upon impact.

In an ambitious test undertaken in the name of airline safety, a test crash of a Boeing 727 in the Sonoran Desert last year found that bracing for impact increased a passenger's likelihood of surviving a crash.

Discovery TV had a Boeing 727 equipped with more than a half a million dollars worth of crash test dummies, 38 specialized cameras and sensors, and a crew of incredibly daring pilots. The pilots, who'd donned parachutes, bailed out of a hatch in the back of the aircraft minutes before the huge jetliner careered into the ground in a horrific crash that tore the plane apart.

During the nose first crash passengers near the front bore the brunt of the impact. Rows one through seven held the "fatal" seats, and seat 7A was catapulted out of the plane.

The crash was staged as part of the Discovery Channels "Curiosity Plane Crash," a result of four years of planning and consultations to better understand what happens to passengers when an aircraft goes down.

The test crash also revealed other aspects of plane crashes, such as the tremendous amount of debris that could prove deadly to any passenger sitting upright, and how important it was to be able to get out of the plane fast. Generally, sitting within five rows of an exit gave passengers the best odds.

In addition, remembering a simple mathematic formula -- plus three, minus eight -- can boost your survivability factor in the case of an unexpected plane crash.

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