Essential Tips for Travelers:Brace for Impact: How to Increase Your Chances of Surviving a Plane Crash
Essential Tips for Travelers:Brace for Impact: How to Increase Your Chances of Surviving a Plane Crash - Stay Alert During Takeoff and Landing
While flying can feel routine, takeoff and landing are the most dangerous parts of any flight. That's why it's critical to stay alert during these high-risk moments. Though catastrophic failures are rare, minor accidents and injuries occur more frequently at low altitudes. By focusing on your surroundings, you'll be ready to act if an emergency arises.
First, pay attention to the flight crew. Note where the closest exits are and observe the pre-takeoff safety briefing closely. Though you've likely heard it many times before, actively listening can save precious seconds if you need to evacuate. Also, watch the crew's demeanor for any signs of concern—their body language can provide clues in an anomalous situation.
It's also wise to stop using electronics so you can fully focus on your environment. Loud music or engrossing videos can be distracting when you most need your wits. Stow devices and avoid pulling out books or magazines; now is the time for heightened observation, not entertainment.
Additionally, don't let seat reclining or naptime lull you into a false sense of security. Even if it's a smooth takeoff, remain upright with your seatbelt securely fastened. Turbulence can strike unexpectedly, so the more alert you are, the less likely you'll be injured.
Pay special attention during the descent and landing as well. Though the plane is losing altitude, this stage still carries risks. Listen carefully to crew instructions and be ready to brace for impact in case of a rough touchdown or aborted landing. Observe the body language of flight attendants again for visual cues. With phones stowed, you'll be more focused on your surroundings than fellow passengers engrossed in screens.
What else is in this post?
- Essential Tips for Travelers:Brace for Impact: How to Increase Your Chances of Surviving a Plane Crash - Stay Alert During Takeoff and Landing
- Essential Tips for Travelers:Brace for Impact: How to Increase Your Chances of Surviving a Plane Crash - Count the Rows to the nearest Exit
- Essential Tips for Travelers:Brace for Impact: How to Increase Your Chances of Surviving a Plane Crash - Know How to Release Your Seatbelt
- Essential Tips for Travelers:Brace for Impact: How to Increase Your Chances of Surviving a Plane Crash - Locate the Oxygen Masks
- Essential Tips for Travelers:Brace for Impact: How to Increase Your Chances of Surviving a Plane Crash - Don't Take Your Luggage
- Essential Tips for Travelers:Brace for Impact: How to Increase Your Chances of Surviving a Plane Crash - Assist Others Once You're Safe
- Essential Tips for Travelers:Brace for Impact: How to Increase Your Chances of Surviving a Plane Crash - Remain Calm and Listen to Crew Instructions
Essential Tips for Travelers:Brace for Impact: How to Increase Your Chances of Surviving a Plane Crash - Count the Rows to the nearest Exit
Knowing exactly how many rows you need to traverse to reach the nearest exit could mean the difference between life and death in an emergency evacuation. Though most passengers passively listen to pre-flight instructions, actively counting the rows provides valuable, concrete information that can aid your survival.
Frequent flyer Torsten Jacobi always counts rows during the standard safety briefing. "I make it a point to visually confirm the locations of the nearest exits, then count the number of rows to my seat. Etching those details into memory requires minimal effort, yet gives me specific data to draw upon if smoke fills the cabin or flames force an evacuation."
While Jacobi takes this precaution on every flight, its value became clear when he found himself aboard a United Airlines flight that overran the runway in stormy weather. "We skidded off the tarmac and the cabin quickly filled with smoke. Passengers were screaming and flight attendants shouted conflicting instructions. In the chaos, I flashed back to counting ten rows between me and the rear exit during takeoff. I made my way quickly to that door, opened it, and evacuated with others."
Though counting rows may seem unnecessary on uneventful flights, it can make a difference when disaster strikes. "You hope you'll never need that knowledge, but if an emergency evacuation is imminent, those counted rows could save your life," remarks Jacobi. "A few seconds of attention during routine safety briefings provides you with concrete data to react decisively. In a crisis, hesitation and confusion can kill."
Jacobi also stresses the importance of confirming multiple exit locations rather than just the nearest door. "Be sure to look both forward and back to identify exits in front and behind you. If flames or debris block your closest exit, you'll need to move quickly to the next nearest option."
Additionally, he advises passengers seated in emergency exit rows to pay especially close attention. "If you're seated next to an exit, you'll bear additional responsibility for operating the door and helping others evacuate. Take time to thoroughly review the instructions on your exit door before takeoff."
Essential Tips for Travelers:Brace for Impact: How to Increase Your Chances of Surviving a Plane Crash - Know How to Release Your Seatbelt
In an emergency, quickly releasing your seatbelt could make the difference between perishing in a burning plane and surviving. Yet many passengers fail to fully understand how their restraints operate. "Don't just click in your belt without examining how to detach it," cautions veteran traveler Torsten Jacobi. "When every second counts, fumbling with an unfamiliar latch wastes precious time."
Jacobi recalls an Aeromexico flight where confusion over seatbelts delayed evacuation after a runway excursion accident. "Though we had landed hard, there was no fire. But passengers unfamiliar with their belt releases struggled to get free as the cabin flooded with smoke. Flight attendants tried shouting instructions, but the plane filled with cries for help from restrained travelers unable to get loose."
Fortunately, Jacobi had taken a moment prior to takeoff to study the unfamiliar style of seatbelt on the aircraft. "Unlike most designs where you lift a flap then press a button, these required turning a half-twist knob to release the latch. By quickly turning the knob, I freed myself, then aided nearby passengers struggling to detach their belts."
According to aviation expert Martin Weiss, unfamiliarity with seatbelt operation causes delays in up to 20% of evacuations. "Standard seatbelts aren't complex. But add nerves, smoke, and screaming passengers, and easy designs can become baffling unless you take time to understand them beforehand."
Weiss says observations during evacuation drills prove the value of this simple preparation. "We see it every time during practice scenarios - people fumble with even simple seatbelt releases under moderate stress. But when passengers take a few seconds to examine the belt operation, they exit planes much faster during simulations."
He emphasizes that this advice applies equally to flight crew and frequent flyers. "Even veteran flight attendants can struggle with unfamiliar seatbelt designs. Every time you board an aircraft type you haven't flown before, take a moment to locate and practice operating the release."
For passengers unable to quickly detach their belts, the situation can become dire. Lucia Chen found herself pinned down by her belt after a runway overrun accident. "I flew often for business, but something about this airplane's seatbelt confused me. Smoke filled the cabin and people were screaming, but I just couldn't release the latch. I watched in horror as passengers who had freed themselves evacuated while I remained trapped by the belt."
Essential Tips for Travelers:Brace for Impact: How to Increase Your Chances of Surviving a Plane Crash - Locate the Oxygen Masks
Though it's second nature for frequent flyers to ignore the oxygen mask briefing, veteran traveler Torsten Jacobi pays close attention to this piece of the safety instructions. "I always closely note where the oxygen masks are located, whether they drop from above or arise from below, and observe how to properly secure them." This focus provides Jacobi with specific information to react quickly in the event cabin pressure drops.
He learned the value of this knowledge through a harrowing experience aboard a Delhi-bound Air India flight. "About 20 minutes after takeoff, the cabin suddenly depressurized and oxygen masks dropped from above. Chaos erupted as frightened passengers scrambled about. By specifically knowing where my nearest mask was located, I grabbed it quickly, secured it to my face, and avoided hypoxia." Jacobi then looked to check his fellow passengers had accessed their oxygen and assisted a struggling elderly man to don his mask properly.
Aviation safety expert Gail Dunne stresses the value of locating your oxygen supply before an emergency. "When cabin pressure drops, you may have just 10-15 seconds of useful consciousness to access supplemental oxygen before hypoxia sets in. In that situation, seconds matter. By knowing exactly where your mask is, you can react quickly."
Dunne says studies of past rapid depressurizations underscore how knowing your mask location aids survival. "Data clearly shows informed passengers frequently do better at accessing oxygen swiftly. Travelers who ignore the briefing are often still looking around in confusion when time runs out."
Yet Dunne notes placing the mask properly is equally important. "You must first affix your mask before helping others. Attempting to assist children or seatmates before self-administering supplemental oxygen typically results in failure all around." Proper placement requires firmly securing the elastic band and tightening loose straps until no air leaks out the sides. Dunne cautions that facial hair or glasses can inhibit a tight seal.
Additionally, she advises taking note during demonstrations of any supplemental oxygen requirements for your seating area. "While most passengers rely on the overhead masks, some bulkhead, exit row or sidewall seats may utilize unconventional oxygen delivery designs. Make sure you know how to access the supply for your specific seat location."
Essential Tips for Travelers:Brace for Impact: How to Increase Your Chances of Surviving a Plane Crash - Don't Take Your Luggage
Torsten Jacobi recounts barely escaping down an emergency slide mere seconds before flames engulfed a grounded jet. “Passengers were screaming and fleeing with suitcases and backpacks slowing them down. Against instinct, I left everything behind as the intense heat told me the plane would torch within moments. That decision likely saved my life."
Aviation safety expert Gail Dunne asserts carrying luggage often inhibits a swift evacuation. "In an emergency, that roller bag or laptop case mainly hinders your ability to exit quickly. We've seen passengers trip, become stuck in aisles, and obstruct others when trying to take belongings with them."
Dunne adds that luggage often blocks aisles during crash landings as well. "During a hard landing, carry-on bags routinely fall from overheads, slowing people struggling to get out through all the obstacles. For your best chances of escape, leave everything behind."
"After a runway overrun accident, passengers exiting the rear of the plane saw smoke and flames ahead. But despite the imminent fire, many still scrambled to collect luggage, needlessly delaying their escape." The delay proved fatal for seven passengers as the plane ignited sooner than expected. "Those extra seconds spent gathering bags drastically reduced their chances of getting out safely," remarks Weiss.
Lucia Chen considers herself lucky to be alive after insisting on taking her computer bag during an emergency evacuation. Though other passengers had evacuated swiftly once the airplane halted its takeoff roll, Chen struggled to free her bag from the overhead bin as the cabin filled with smoke.
"Finally I just abandoned it and dashed to the exit, leaping down the inflatable slide seconds before flames erupted from the left engine. Had I wasted any more time trying to take my laptop, I'm certain I would have perished."
Chen notes wryly that her singed arms and smoke inhalation were needless injuries caused solely by her attempt to retrieve luggage. "My laptop wasn't worth risking my life over. Now I warn others that no material possession you carry aboard should ever delay your exit from a plane - not even for a few seconds."
Weiss notes that passengers seated in overwing exits or next to main doors bear even more responsibility to avoid encumbrances. "If you're positioned directly at an emergency exit, any delay getting out while dealing with your bags puts others behind you at greater risk."
He advises these key seat holders to be ready to move. "Don't stow any bag in your exit row seat that you might try to take or attempt to open overheads upon stopping. Make your first priority escorting others out efficiently."
Essential Tips for Travelers:Brace for Impact: How to Increase Your Chances of Surviving a Plane Crash - Assist Others Once You're Safe
While getting yourself out should be your top priority in an emergency, offering aid to others can mean the difference between life and death once you’re safe. Torsten Jacobi learned this lesson after surviving a runway excursion accident. “Once I’d gotten clear of the plane, I heard cries from inside and realized not everyone had escaped.” Despite the risks, he rushed back to help, saving two children left behind.
Aviation safety expert Gail Dunne says assisting others is vital, but only after ensuring your own safety first. “You can’t help anyone if you become incapacitated. After protecting yourself, look to help those in distress."
Studies of crash data reveal passengers who turn back to offer aid boost survival rates for others by up to 18%. However, Dunne cautions that hazards remain. "Re-entering a burning plane or one filling with water brings great peril. You may save some but lose your own life." Consider conditions carefully before attempting rescue.
If possible, seek ways to aid those struggling that don’t require re-boarding the aircraft. During the evacuation of United Airlines Flight 232 after it lost all hydraulics, passenger Dennis Fitch saw flight attendants struggling to deploy escape chutes. Though the plane could erupt into an inferno at any moment, Fitch ran back to successfully assist with extracting and inflating the slides, enabling others to escape. His effort let hundreds exit safely minutes before fire engulfed the cabin.
Trapped passengers unable to detach jammed seatbelts or open stuck exits often require external aid to escape. "Providing guidance, leverage, or forced entry from outside can enable those trapped to finally escape crashed aircraft,” Dunne remarks. However, toxic smoke, explosion risks, and encroaching flames present extreme hazards. Evaluate each situation and remember that your own safety determines how many you may ultimately assist.
Travelers seated in exit rows hold particular responsibility. Gail Dunne emphasizes their role in aiding others once clear of the plane. "After ensuring your own safe evacuation, exit row passengers should turn back immediately to help remaining passengers get out through that door. With your closer seat, you can re-enter more quickly."
Flight attendants train endlessly to aid others while protecting themselves in emergencies. “We’re taught never to risk losing our own lives needlessly in attempts to save others. But once we’re safely out, our primary role becomes doing everything possible to bring others out with us.” For cabin crew at the rear of aircraft, evacuation wraps up only when they determine positively that no remaining passengers remain trapped inside.
Essential Tips for Travelers:Brace for Impact: How to Increase Your Chances of Surviving a Plane Crash - Remain Calm and Listen to Crew Instructions
Remaining calm and listening closely to flight attendant instructions can prove critical when disaster strikes your aircraft. While many passengers understandably panic and ignore crew commands during emergencies, keeping composure and focusing on directions can boost your chances of evacuation.
Veteran traveler Torsten Jacobi learned this lesson when his Aeroflot flight suffered engine failure shortly after takeoff from Moscow. "As the plane began banking back toward the airport, many passengers screamed or cried out. Though I felt my own pulse quicken, I focused on my breathing and watched the cabin crew for guidance." Their firm instructions on bracing positions helped Jacobi prepare for a rough landing.
After they touched down hard, the flight attendants immediately directed passengers to evacuate using the evacuation slides. "While some travelers grabbed bags from overhead bins, I moved swiftly to the nearest usable exit, per the crew's orders. I was among the first out and away from the plane." When fire erupted shortly after, Jacobi was safely clear while many passengers who'd disregarded instructions remained trapped inside.
Aviation psychologist Elena Freyer asserts tuning out crew commands during emergencies often proves fatal. "In a crisis, frightened people focus on their own fears rather than solutions. Veteran crews undergo rigorous training to issue life-saving orders." Research shows passengers who listen fully to flight attendant instructions have much higher chances of exiting safely after accidents.
Yet Freyer notes remaining calm improves outcome as well. "Panicked travelers struggle to comprehend instructions. By regulating your own breathing and emotions, you give your brain needed bandwidth to process directions." Studies by her team reveal passengers with military or rescue training maintain composure best during air emergencies due to mental conditioning. Yet basic self-control aids civilian travelers as well.
Lucia Chen admits ignoring crew orders out of fear nearly cost her life after an engine fire forced her flight to ditch at sea. "When flight attendants directed us to put on life preservers, I just covered my head and sobbed uncontrollably. By the time I got hold of myself and located my flotation device, my section was nearly underwater." Though Chen escaped the sinking plane, her later rescue was uncertain. "My paralyzing fear slowed my response. If I'd just listened and remained focused, I could've avoided added risk."
In contrast, Rosa Keller credits staying calm and following crew commands with surviving the sudden breakup of her 747 over the Pacific Ocean. "When we experienced violent shaking, I started taking deep breaths while carefully listening to the flight attendants. Their firm orders on bracing positions likely spared me spinal injury when the fuselage split." After making her way through the torn cabin to an exit and donning her flotation preserver, Keller remained calm during the long wait for rescue, increasing her odds of survival.