Count the rows to the exits and keep your shoes on: After six survive the Colombia disaster an air safety expert reveals how to increase your chances of walking away from a plane crash.
A plane crash in Colombia has killed at least 75 people including most of one of Brazil’s top football teams, leaving just six survivors.
While the investigation may take some time to reveal the factors behind the accident, the distressingly high – but not total – number of fatalities raises the question of how some people are able to survive such a devastating disaster.
You’ve Only Got 90 Seconds to Get Out
Understanding this is the key ingredient to surviving, and will frame all the other tips in this post. If you’ve survived the crash landing, you have a pretty good chance of getting out of the airplane alive. But, you only have 90 seconds to do so.
It’s Safer In The Back!
Survival rates based on where you sit on a plane.
The FAA has rigorously studied and crunched the numbers on airplane crash survivors, as well as tested nearly 2,500 people in simulated evacuations to find out the type of person who typically survives. Their results? Young, slender men have the best odds of surviving a plane crash. (Old, fat women have the worst odds — sorry Aunt Myrtle.)
Fly in Bigger Planes if Possible
If you have the choice between flying in a puddle jumper or a 737, choose the 737. According to FAA investigations, larger planes have more energy absorption in a crash which means you’re subjected to less deadly force, and that may equate to a better survival rate.
Remember the Five Row Rule
The best seat to have is in the exit row as you’d be the first one out should you need to exit. If you can’t snag that seat, go for the aisle. Not only do you have easier access to the lavatory during flight, you also have a 64% chance of survival compared to the 58% chance you’d have sitting in a window seat. Also avoid bulkhead rows. Sure, you have more leg room, but the walls don’t “give” as much as seats when you collide with them in a crash.
Overcome the Normalcy Bias With an Action Plan
The Normalcy Bias causes our brains to assume that things will be predictable and normal all the time. When things aren’t normal, it takes our brain a long time to process this. Instead of springing to action when something unexpected happens, our brain kind of shrugs and figures that what is going on can’t be so bad, because truly bad events are so out of the ordinary.
Read the Safety Card and Listen to the Flight Attendants
Another thing you can do to overcome the Normalcy Bias is to read through the safety card as well as listen to the flight attendants when they give their pre-flight safety spiel. Just because you’ve amassed enough frequent flier miles to circumnavigate the globe 1,000 times, you’re definitely not off the hook. You may think you’re justifiably confident, but you’re probably complacent; in a report published a few years ago, the FAA found that frequent fliers were the least informed on what to do and most susceptible to the normalcy bias in the event of a plane crash.
Remember the Plus 3/Minus 8 Rule
In the aviation world, Plus 3/Minus 8 refers to the first three minutes after takeoff and the last eight minutes before landing. According to flight crash investigators, close to 80% of all plane crashes occur during this timeframe (the events leading up to the recent Asiana plane crash happened during the last 8 minutes of descent). In between those times, the chances of a plane crash occurring drop dramatically. Thus, if you want to up your chances of survival, you need to be extra vigilant and ready to take action during the first 3 minutes after takeoff and the last 8 minutes before landing.
Put on Your Oxygen Mask as Soon as It Drops
Airplane cabins are pressurized so you can breathe normally at 30,000 feet. When a cabin loses pressure, there’s so little air at high altitudes that getting oxygen to your bloodstream is next to impossible. That’s where oxygen masks come in. They pump pure oxygen into your nose and mouth so that you can get the air you need.
Assume Brace Position
I always thought the brace positions were kind of silly. There’s no way that curling up in a ball would help you survive in a plane crash. But research has shown that brace positions do indeed up the chances of survival in an emergency crash landing. The positions help reduce the velocity of your head when it inevitably slams into the seat in front of you. Moreover, they help minimize limb flailing. Also, make sure your seatbelt is securely fastened — low and tight — over your lap. Those bad boys are designed to withstand 3,000 pounds of force, which is about three times as much as your body could handle without passing out. You can trust ’em.