of Flying and What To Do
show that a person would have to travel on an airline flight
every day for thirty-five thousand years to be assured of being
in an accident. You are more likely to be killed by a donkey
that die in a plane crash. Even then, odds are that you
would survive. Today's jetliners whisk through satelite-defined
jet routes forty thousand feet above the ground at speeds
nearing that of sound. Flown by hundreds of thousands of
dedicated pilots, and assisted by countless other traffic
controllers, mechanics, and engineers on the ground, these
mechanical marvels carry millions of people safely across the
world every day. Occasionally, however, something goes wrong.
of the people involved in air crashes survive. Approximately
one-third of the third who do die could have survived if they
had known what to do and almost all of these died from smoke
or fire. If it seems certain the plane is going to crash,
here's what to do while the plane is going down.
The Odds Can Be Comforting
travel is frightening for many passengers,
particularly if frequent travel
is required. However, flying is extremely safe, regardless of
news reports, and knowing the actual odds of danger can be
comforting. Here are other flight statistics I have found:
passenger has only one chance in 7 million in dying on a
scheduled domestic flight. Someone who flies daily would, on
average, go 19,000 years before dying in a crash. For
international flights on US-owned airlines, the chance of
death is one in 1.5 million flights, or the likelihood of
4,000 flights before danger.
your seat belt on and fasten it as tightly as possible.
where all the emergency exits are, put them in order of
priority and plan your route to each one. Interviews with
survivors of air crashes confirm that the common element
among the overwhelming majority was that they had a specific
plan of action and followed through with it on their own. If
you have time, study the emergency safety card; studies have
shown that you are three times more likely to be injured
during a crash if you haven't read the emergency safety
sharp pencils, pens out of your clothes and remove dentures,
high-heeled shoes and eyeglasses.
your bladder to reduce the chance of internal injury.
you don't have a personal smoke hood, moisten a
handkerchief, headrest cover or shirttail, so if there's
smoke after impact, you can hold it over your mouth. If no
other liquids are handy, use your urine.
you've got time, pack for outside the plane, such as a
sweater or Coat to keep you warm and any medicines you will
your head, preferably with a pillow. Then either cross your
arms over your calves and grab your ankles or put your
palms-forward, crossed wrists between your head and the seat
in front of you. In the latter position, it's best to slide
your feet forward until they touch the seat leg or
under-seat baggage in front, so your legs are less likely to
snap forward on impact.
you're still alive after the plane comes to a stop, that's when
you should do the one thing which will most likely save your
life, and that is, very simply, get out of there as fast as you
crash after crash in which the passengers survive impact, they
just sit there, stunned, waiting to be told what to do. Often,
the flight attendants, themselves stunned, fail to give
directions right away. When the flight attendants finally do
start talking, many of the passengers will still sit there as
though in a trance. By the time the passengers finally get
moving, the plane has filled with smoke, with flames and/or with
panic-stricken fellow passengers trampling each other to get
as soon as the plane comes to a stop, undo your seat belt, leap
out of your seat and move quickly to the exit. Don't take
anything with you; you'll need your hands free to keep your
balance in the aisle as you step over bodies and luggage or find
yourself being pushed from behind by panic-stricken passengers.
If the aisle is blocked, walk over the backs of the seats. Don't
waste your time crawling on the floor to avoid any smoke; you'll
only end up being trampled by and/or buried under all the other
passengers who are suffocating. But if there is smoke, do keep
your head down. You'll know you've arrived at the doors when the
floor lights are red rather than white.
not push the passengers in front of you. You won't get through
any faster and will only increase the chance of your being
punched in the face, trapped by squirming bodies in the aisle
or, most seriously, stuck behind a blocked door (see below).
you finally arrive at an exit door, if it's not open, take a
quick look out the window to see if there's fire there. If there
is, run to the other side of the plane and open the door there.
HINTS FOR THE NERVOUS TRAVELLER
a large aircraft
checking the statistics, you will see that larger aircraft
provide a better chance of passenger survival. All aircraft
with more than 30 passenger seats are designed and certified
under the most stringent of regulations.
Fly on non-stop routes
70% of aircraft incidences in recent years occur on take-off
or landing. Try and minimize the number of times you have to
Listen to the pre-flight safety demonstration
Find out where the location of your nearest emergency
exits are. Find out how they open - outwards, upwards or
Keep your seat belt fastened whilst you are seated
This is important if you hit a bit of unexpected turbulence.
Make sure you know how the seat belt releases (it's not like a
car seat belt, and needs to be lifted at least 90 degrees to
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations require
passengers to be seated with their seat belts properly
the aircraft leaves the gate and until it climbs after
landing until the aircraft reaches the gate and comes to a
complete stop; and
the seat belt sign is illuminated during flight.
drink too much
The atmosphere pressure in an airliner cabin will cause
you to be more affected by alcohol than at sea level. Although
it may relieve anxiety, in the long run it could make it
worse. That said, a number of our correspondents swear by
drinking themselves stupid to avoid in flight jitters, but we
at aworldaway.com cannot recommend such behavior, and we would
certainly not advise it for those traveling alone.
Where shall I sit?
If you're seated by the wing it probably means you're not
elderly, handicapped, pregnant, obese or a child. This is
because there are normally self-help exits in the form of over
wing hatches that need to be operated by the passengers
sitting next to them. They can be quite heavy and need to be
thrown out to get to the evacuation path on the wing.
and avoid sitting directly underneath any TV monitors as heavy
turbulence could bring these crashing down. On you.
the Captain saying???
It can be quite unnerving to hear the Captain's voice during
the flight especially when he appears to be talking in code to
the flight attendants. Don't worry, there's normally a good
explanation. For example, when the plane's taxiing to the
runway and the Captain announces to the crew "arm
doors" or "set doors to automatic" this is just
a routine instruction to place the door to a special mode
where, if it is then opened, an escape chute will deploy and
inflate. Nothing to worry about.
I Going Down due to:
...there being a fire???
BCF (halon) fire extinguishers are on board to be used on any
cabin fire. If the aircraft suddenly makes an emergency
descent, it is because the fire is either out of control or
its source is unidentified. If smoke enters the cabin, keep
low using any material to cover your mouth. It is smoke
inhalation, not burns, that cause most deaths in a fire...
As for engine fires, it is also worth noting that during
take-off it is quite common for flames to appear, but this
shouldn't be anything to worry about, just a little excess
fuel burning off.
...the aircraft ditching???
Ditching, that is landing on water, is most likely to happen
on or near an airfield. For most large aircraft, there are
slides which can act as makeshift buoyancy devices when
detached from the aircraft, whilst long haul aircraft have
slides which convert into slides with canopies to provide
protection from the elements.
Smaller aircraft's primary evacuation exits are onto the wings
where you may be asked to sit in rows with your legs round the
person in front (scissor like) to provide stability and
warmth. For airlines that don't provide life jackets, the seat
cushion may be used as a float.
...the aircraft decompressing???
Depressurization or decompression can be a result of either a
system failure or a break in the aircraft's structure. The
decompression can be either slow (for example, a faulty door
seal) or rapid. In the former case, this will result in a
gradual rise in the cabin altitude with a decrease in
temperature (remember the outside temperature at cruising
altitude is below minus 50 degC). A rapid decompression
however will cause the sudden equalisation of gases making the
cabin condense and gases in the body to vent. This is turn
could lead to perforated eardrums.
The oxygen masks automatically drop, from overhead
compartments when the cabin altitude reaches 14,000ft.
Normally it is the pulling action towards your face which
starts up the oxygen supply. With a rapid decompression, you
may have only 20 seconds of being fully conscious with the
ability to think clearly, after which, although still
conscious, you will be unable to think or coordinate properly
or rationally. A feeling of euphoria may also overcome you, a
symptom of the brain not receiving enough oxygen. As with the
incidence of a fire, the aircraft will make an emergency
descent, taking the plane down to an altitude where it will be
possible to breathe without the masks. This is normally 10,
000ft or 4,000ft higher than the surrounding terrain.
Turbulence is air movement that normally cannot be seen and
often occurs unexpectedly. It can be created by a number of
different conditions, including atmospheric pressures, jet
streams, mountain waves, cold or warm fronts, or
thunderstorms. Turbulence can occur when the sky appears to be
In non-fatal accidents, in-flight turbulence is the leading
cause of injuries to airline passengers and flight attendants.
Generally, two-thirds of turbulence-related accidents occur at
or above 30,000 feet. In 1997, about half of the accidents
occurred above 30,000 feet.
Since 1980, 20 passengers and 4 crew have died in fatal
turbulence events. Among these events were incidences of
aircraft losing wings and deaths from falling in-flight
The best advise is to keep your seat belt fastened at the
appropriate times as outlined earlier.
Also remember that aircraft regularly fly through quite
frightening turbulence without incident, so don't panic.