20120515 - Survivors' guide to plane crashes

[<Normal page] [PEREZGONZALEZ Jose D [ed] (2009). Survivors' guide to plane crashes. Aeroscience (ISSN 2324-4399), 2012, pages 30-31.]

This is a bullet-point guide to the BBC Horizon's video Survivors' guide to plane crashes.


  • 90% of airplane crashes are survivable.
  • 95% of people involved in airplane crashes survive the crash.

Surviving the impact

  • The seatbelt prevents your body from being catapulted in the cabin.
  • The brace position for your seat helps increase survivability:
    • It helps lower your torso as much as possible.
    • It prevents your limbs from floating around and from breaking on impact with the seat in front of you.
    • It protects your head from impacting the seat in front of you.
    • As the appropriate brace position may not be the same for different seats, check the appropriate brace position for your seat every time you fly.
  • Seats can also be constructed or modified so that they cushion the effect of rapid deceleration.
  • Seatbelts could be fitted with airbags, as well.

Surviving in water

  • Never inflate your lifejacket before clearing the aircraft. Inflating your lifejacket inside the aircraft will make you float inside the cabin and will prevent you from swimming to safety.
  • Inflate your lifejacket as you are going to jump out of the aircraft or once you have cleared it. Remember that if fuel has been spilt, it will make swimming almost impossible. But you can always float on it using your lifejacket.
  • Cluster together and hug other survivors to conserve body heat and make yourself more visible to rescuers.
  • When being rescued by a helicopter, let the basket touch the water before grasping it. This way, you allow any static electricity to dissipate in the water first.
  • Remember that aircraft seatbelts are different than car seatbelts. The buckle is on your stomach (not your side) and it opens by pulling a latch (not by pressing a button). In a crash, many people forget this, and revert to the more familiar car seatbelt configuration, preventing them from escaping the airplane.

Surviving the evacuation

  • Have an evacuation plan so that you know what to do in case of an evacuation.
  • Have an evacuation plan if you travel in group (e.g. with family). The plan is simply to agree to get out as quickly as possible by yourselves and meet each other once outside the aircraft (otherwise, you endanger your own lives as well as those of others).
  • Notice cabin floor lights in case of smoke. Where they change colour pattern, there is an emergency exit.
  • In case of smoke in the cabin, you may have only 90 seconds to get out if you are to survive.
  • Count the seat rows from your seat to the emergency exits in front and behind you. You can find your way out by counting seat rows if smoke reduces visibility or if an electric failure prevent the floor lights from working.
  • Sit within seven rows of a serviceable emergency exit (preferably in the emergency exit row), as you will have greater chances of being able to get out and survive.
1. BBC (2006). A survivor's guide to plane crashes. BBC Horizon (London, UK), 2006.

Want to know more?

BBC Horizon - Survivors' guide to plane crashes
This page offers more information related to the programme, although the page may not have been updated since 2006.


Jose D PEREZGONZALEZ (2009). School of Aviation, Massey University, New Zealand (JDPerezgonzalezJDPerezgonzalez).


Nicholas ASHLEY (2010). School of Aviation, Massey University, New Zealand (NickAshleyNickAshley).
Amber WAN (2010). School of Aviation, Massey University, New Zealand (Amber WanAmber Wan).

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