Survive an aircraft disaster

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Solution

Increasing the odds to survive an aircraft disaster

 The description of  "Aircraft disaster" can be found under "Why be prepared"

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Why do some passengers survive plane crashes and others tragically don't? The answers to this question is largely dependent upon a great deal of variables and factors most of which are out of our personal control. Relevant factors for surviving such an event are most often contingent on the type of disaster, accident or crash and size of aircraft. Some crashes are less likely to result in survival due to their destructive nature while others offer a glimmer hope while an event is in progress. Never the less it is still one of those experiences which leave us feeling like we have absolutely no control for the consequences. Despite these discouraging factors is it still a possibility to encourage the intentional outcome of surviving an aircraft disaster or crash? According to survivors, ... it is.

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This page contains statistical information and helpful hints that might aid in surviving a plane crash.

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Start with this video titled "survivors guide to plane crashes" or continue reading below.

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Statistical data

In the United States alone between 1985 and the year 2000 approximately 90 percent of passengers involved in aviation crashes lived to tell their story. [source: BBC]. The statistics for those accidents showed that out of 53,487 passengers involved in aviation accidents a whopping 51,207 survived.
The fact is the odds of dying on a commercial airline flight are lower than what most passengers are aware of. The odds of being involved in a fatal accident are provided below courtesy of http://www.planecrashinfo.com/

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Odds of being involved in a fatal accident
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The odds of surviving a fatal aircraft accident can vary depending on a number of factors. Such factors are related to the type of aircraft, condition of the aircraft, safety features and how many fellow passengers there are to contend with. The odds of survival seem to be encouraged by seat location, type of clothing and the amount of layers being worn. Protecting the head from rocketing debris and assuming a crash position adds to the potential to survive. The area where the accident occurs can have a huge impact on who or how many survive. The effects of aircraft accidents which occurred in mountainous terrains differed substantially from those that happened over water or likewise over suburban areas. Each scenario requires a degree of mental preparedness to have a fighting chance of survival. Nothing is impossible.

  The odds of surviving a low impact commercial aircraft accident is approximately 90 % . Additional statistics and percentages of survival rates can be found at http://www.planecrashinfo.com/cause.htm which covers a wider array of locations, variations of aircraft involved and conditions during the accident. Results from aircraft disasters or incidents involving the United States are collected by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Crash research and the reports generated as a result of investigations reveal a pattern for survivors that can be considered advantageous for those who are concerned about the dangers of flying. This is the kind of information that can be explored with the intent to survive an aircraft disaster. The decisions you make before and during a flight and how you prepared yourself could mean the difference between life and death. No two crashes are the same. It is fully understood that some aircraft accidents are not survivable. Crashes of high velocity often result in a condition where no one survives as does those occasions where terror attacks were responsible for the disaster. Circumstances involving a hostile takeover of an aircraft may have a chance to be averted by responsive courageous passengers but coordinating such a counter attack requires collective like-minded individuals who refuse to go down without a fight. With that being understood we can move on to those situations that present a good chance of surviving.

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A note regarding the advancements in technology

With the advances in science and technology aircraft are becoming far more equipped to detect and avert most potentials for accidents to occur. As we progress in the field of aviation safety there are a number of factors to be considered as advancements. Newer collision warning technologies, auto responding controls, additional checks and balance requirements to reduce pilot error. New composites and materials which are stronger and less flammable than previously used to construct aircraft. Pilot error cannot be excused from the equation of an accident or crash so tighter requirements are put into place to prompt pilots on corrective actions reminding them of unforeseen conditions to be addressed. Additional measures for the future which are currently being explored involve the implementation of parachutes designed to ease the impact of an aircraft hitting the ground. This innovation has already saved lives. See the video below.

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The following information has been provided for those who are seeking the best possible chances to survive an aviation accident.

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Flying in smaller aircraft

Smaller aircraft between 2 and 8 seats are generally not considered a disaster causing event when one goes down, …. unless they crash into a shopping mall full of people as was the case in Concord California, … twice!! Anytime an aircraft goes down in a populated are it becomes a tragedy. Within our members group of P2S are a few pilots who shared an incident where the plane they were in was in process of falling out of the sky due to pilot error. It was described as terrifying. Tree lines were clipped and paint was removed from the bottom of the aircraft. The crash was averted just in time due to actions taken by a passenger who noticed the flap settings were not correct for the situation. This could have ended their lives had he not noticed the mistake and taken the appropriate actions.

Here it is in nut shell. Not all aircraft accidents are survivable. But don’t give up trying during the event. This is what our pilots had to say regarding preparations for an emergency landing. Crack open the door handles as they have been known to jam preventing escape. Bring your knees up off the floor towards your chest to prevent being captured by the undercarriage or seat and protect your head most of all. In many cases it has been advantageous to stall the aircraft just before hitting the ground. That means the pilot will attempt to pull the nose up and roll those flaps back all the way until the aircraft is almost floating. This will also bleeds off some speed in hopes of lessening the blunt forces of impact.

There is a fine line and very little time between reacting and doing nothing. Be aware of the condition of your pilot and his attention to detail. If you feel your pilot has been distracted or made a mistake don't be afraid to make an inquiry. Keep an eye out for unusual circumstances. If forced to land look for the nearest flat level ground or section of dirt. Many pilots have set planes down on farms, freeways and beaches not to mention bodies of water. This is where people on the ground are at risk. It must be a horrific decision for any pilot to set a plane down where people are present knowing that they may become victims. Especially once the pilot is committed and it becomes too late to change the situation. Beaches and shore lines are places where this scenario has occurred where people had been hit by aircraft during an emergency landing. If at all possible dumping the fuel may prevent a fire from getting out of control once the aircraft has come to a stop. This may present an opportunity to escape from the wreckage without the complications associated with fires.

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Passengers in larger commercial aircraft

Prior to boarding: It is advantageous to know the aircraft type you will be flying in. If the opportunity exists perform a little homework to know more about the safety records, exit locations etc. If possible this might give you a better idea as to where you want to sit. There are advantageous to seating arrangements which we will cover below. Saying a prayer can’t hurt either.

Make observations upon boarding: While you are boarding make note of all the exit locations. Once you have found your seat make a plan in case you must evacuate quickly. Evacuating quickly can be difficult and hindered by slower moving passengers looking for their overhead luggage during an emergency… believe it or not!!! An unfortunate circumstance which has occurred in the past involved passengers who had clogged the escape routes while looking for their stuff. People died as a result. This is a tough moment when passengers must get out of the aircraft while helping others do the same. A well thought out plan should include encouraging others to move forward without their belongings, especially if they have children or are impaired and require assistance. Life comes first. Be sure to count the rows of seats between you and the nearest exits in the event of darkness or smoke which can prevent a clear view.

During the flight is a good time to profile your fellow passengers to determine the variety of outcomes during an incident or accident based on the diversity of the passengers. This is a fun little exercise to pass the time away.  Just the same it may be necessary to make note of those passengers who are drinking alcohol in excess. Most passengers will tell you that it is not your concern. Intoxicated and disoriented passengers have been responsible for delays in action resulting in fatalities during such an event. It is also important to know the region or path the flight is taking. If possible glance out the windows occasionally so as to have a birds-eye view of the region, just in case the aircraft goes down.

Advantageous clothing to wear for the flight: Is there clothing that can offer an advantage for surviving and aircraft accident? Yes, … there sure is!!!! A Helmet & face shield with a level 3 bullet proof vest couldn't hurt. Add some neck and shoulder guards along with Kevlar pants, steel toe combat boots and that might do the trick. However most passengers are opposed to wearing all that gear and it might be misconstrued as suspicious or threatening. Why the helmet? Because many fatalities associated with aircraft accidents occurred as a result of a head injury or a broken neck after being hit by flying debris … such as that luggage stuffed under the seat just a few rows back. Since it is not practical to board an aircraft dressed like a swat team leader than do your best to protect the vital areas of your body. Use enough clothing to absorb the blunt forces that effect your head and neck and to protect your skin from rips and tears. Many survivors of plane and airline crashes had clothing that offered more protection from ripping and tearing and blunt force. Much of the protective clothes available these days are made with strong materials such as Kevlar or recently developed materials such as ABC-Matrix developed by Novana. The material, which is waterproof and flame retardant, can withstand 3,000 rounds of fire from an AK-47 rifle. ….. Just saying. There are currently no laws regarding football helmets being worn during a flight.

Seat location: "Is there a safest seat?" Popular Mechanics magazine did some extensive research which validates the rear of an aircraft is by odds the safest location to be possibly due to the structural integrity of the section. They studied data of every U.S. commercial jet crash for the last 36 years and found that passengers seated in the rear of the plane are 40 percent more likely to survive than those in the first few rows [source: Popular Mechanics]. The Federal Aviation Administration's position is that there is no safest seat. If you're near an emergency exit, knowing how to open it, will not only help you, but others around you as well. Some passengers who are not seated near an exit choose to sit on the hallway for easier evacuation. Because no two airline accidents are the same some travelers chose to place faith in the seating over the wing areas as does Mercedes Johnson. ..... CRASH SURVIVOR

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"I felt like I was on a roller-coaster or something"

Mercedes Johnson survived the American Airlines Flight 965 which crashed into a Colombian mountain in 1995. Out of 159 onboard, only four lived and Ms Johnson believes where she sat played a role in her survival.
"The location where we were sitting was over the wing which was near the exit row and I've heard on numerous occasions that those rows are one of the safest areas to sit in because it's the most reinforced with metal," says Ms Johnson.
But sitting over the wings isn't always the best place, because you don't know how your plane is going to crash.

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Situations to consider

Smoke in the cabin: Smoke in the passenger cabin is an unfortunate situation… Especially at 30,000 feet. What’s more terrifying than smoke in the cabin is the chaos from panicking passengers. Once again keep as calm as possible and think about survival. Smoke in the cabin at lower altitudes might allow for an exit door to be opened to exhaust the smoke otherwise passengers are subject to inhaling the toxic fumes until the aircraft stops. Excessive time to land or stop an aircraft before those emergency doors can be opened is not practical or conducive for survival. Test results reveal  that passengers only have just a few minutes of breathable air until they collapse from toxic fumes. Technology is advancing with the aim of producing nonflammable composites and materials to construct passenger compartments but until then take the following measures into consideration during such an event. Carry filter material or a mask. N95 masks, generally used in healthcare environments, provide an added degree of protection which could buy a passenger a few more minutes of survival time. It was mentioned that toxic smoke renders passengers unconscious in just a few minutes. Passengers that had just a few more seconds made it out alive. Passengers who are passed out cannot save themselves or others. Stay below the smoke if possible and get into a crash position as instructed. Protect your eyes from constant exposure to the smoke if possible. Be prepared to move to a seating area away from the smoke. In most cases when smoke was in the passenger cabin masks were not available so using a damp cloth was used. If a fire is detected the oxygen masks may not deploy so as to avoid fueling the fire. If you have nothing to moisten a cloth with (in order to protect yourself from smoke inhalation), you can use urine. It’s OK if your life depends on it!!! Chances are urinating may not be a difficult task to accomplish during such an event.

Fire in the cabin: Generally speaking most all passengers who are seated near a  fire beginning will act fast to put it out, unless it is not visible. Be prepared to provide assistance. Note: Do not throw just any liquid on a fire to extinguish it as many fluids on an aircraft are alcohol based, OOPS. Follow the instructions given by the flight attendant as an emergency landing will most likely be in effect. Encourage passengers around you.

Hostile takeover: Here is yet another difficult topic of concern. Hijackers on board a commercial flight. Most passengers have heard how this can turn out. Many of the incidences researched indicated that had the passengers taken immediate action as a group the hijacking could have been averted. Passengers typically receive an in service regarding the use of oxygen masks and life preservers but never what to do during a hijacking. Why not? Any potential for mishap is a little frightening regardless of the nature.  An inward rush of people toward the hijackers will be acknowledged by other passengers and the action will be a joint effort by most all passengers seated near the corridor. Yes, … some passengers may be injured but here is where heroes take action. If not, ... we leave our fate to the end of the ride which in most cases ends in disaster. Act instinctively and immediately before the hijackers gain full control and submission. To be fair we must mention that the US Homeland security does not have an official procedure for passengers in this situation but they do suggest passive and calm reaction. See their suggestions here at http://www.nationalterroralert.com/hijacking_survival/.

Accidents occurring over water: Prepare for impact. The flight crew announces a water landing. Make note of anything that can be used to capture a large bubble of air in case you are not near an exit. Water landing can be safe but getting everyone out of the aircraft before it sinks is a task that needs to be encouraged by all passengers. Even though aircraft material floats a tubular design full of sinking passengers is another situation filled with panic and chaos. In the event of a water landing, remove your shoes and excess clothes before or immediately after entering the water. This will make swimming and floating easier. The one exception to the “leave everything behind” rule may be a jacket or blanket, and you should only consider carrying that if you have it ready to go at impact. While having appropriate clothing may save your life if you’re stranded for a while, you first have to get out of the aircraft safely. It’s quite common for people to forget how to unbuckle their seat belts after a crash. Many victims were found still buckled into their seats. It is suggested to avoid inflating life preservers until after having exited the aircraft. Other occasions revealed a number of passengers who had drown inside the aircraft and they all had one thing in common. All of them had inflated life jackets and could not get out to safety. Here is an interesting video showing educational information on this subject. http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/video/nightline-survive-plane-crashing-water-26904792

Helpful behavior: Don’t panic or induce panic amongst the passengers. Easier said than done, right? Many people who perished in plane crashes could have avoided it if they had not made some fatal errors. The biggest enemy in a crash scenario is panic. Keeping your wits about you and maintaining focus will do more to save your life than anything else. Panic is the reason that many passengers find themselves unable to do simple tasks such releasing their seat-belt. The most frequent use of a safety belt is in your car, with a push-button release. In the heat if the moment, remembering that the plane's belt has a pull-release isn't second nature. For this reason, many crash victims are found still strapped into their seats.

Luggage: Carry a first aid kit in your luggage. Refrain from bringing items of value in the cabin as you may loose your primary focus to get out of danger. Place your carry on luggage below the seat in front of you as a buffer if possible. Keep those N95 masks on your carry on which should be placed close for immediate use. Try that football helmet on.

Preparing for impact: Just do this even though it feels a little uncertain. As we mentioned earlier, … protecting the head and neck should be primarily considered as well as to prevent the possibility of skin tearing or bleeding. The official FAA crash position is to extend your arms, cross your hands and place them on the seat in front of you, and then place your head against the back of your hands. Tuck your feet under your seat as far as you can. If you have no seat in front of you, bend your upper body over with your head down and wrap your arms behind your knees. Always stow your carry-on bag under the seat in front of you to block the area. Remove sharp objects—pens, pencils, etc.—from your pockets before a crash. Better yet, don’t carry them at all. Nearly any loose object on a plane can become a deadly projectile in the event of a crash.
Go here for more: http://www.wikihow.com/Survive-a-Plane-Crash .

Once stopped on the ground be aware of the following. Get out of the aircraft first and foremost. If the use of a life vest is anticipated don't inflate it until you're outside the cabin. It will restrict your movement.¬ Be aware of fuel that has not been ignited, sharp objects and debris. People that have fallen or restricting the path to safety may need your help which may also assist in clearing the way for others safety. Take note of your personal condition and try to get yourself and others to safety. Surviving passengers commonly lose their barring and understanding of what has just occurred yet that survival instincts often takes over. Get past the immediate dangers than take inventory. Help will be on its way soon. Until then find others to assist by administering any degree of first aid if possible.

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Future measures of aircraft safety

Besides the advancements to use nonflammable materials for constructing aircraft the concept of adding parachutes to support aircraft during a fall has been discussed.
http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20131223-should-planes-have-parachutes

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The video below is actual footage from a plane that used a parachute in an emergency situation. This incident took place outside of Maui, Hawaii in January of 2015.

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References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fear_of_flying
http://www.planecrashinfo.com/cause.htm
http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/video/nightline-survive-plane-crashing-water-26904792
http://aviation.about.com/od/Accidents/a/Inside-The-Aircraft-Accident-Investigation-Process.htm
http://m.wikihow.com/Survive-a-Plane-Crash
http://www.check-six.com/Crash_Sites/SunValley_Mall_Crash.htm
http://www.inc.com/magazine/201110/innovation-a-cheaper-alternative-to-kevlar.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_landing

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