Traveling on a commercial airline is one of the safest and efficient methods of transportation available. The NTSB reports that the chance of being on a flight that crashes and has at least one fatality is about 1 in 4.25 million. The chance that one person is you is about 1 in 6.3 million. It is still natural to be interested in increasing your odds for survival by taking ownership in your own safety. You can play an active role in your survival by following a few simple guidelines.
Preparing for your flight should begin before you ever arrive at the airport. The first thing to consider is the clothing you are going to wear. Long pants and long sleeve shirts, made of natural products such as cotton are best. For obvious reasons, yet rarely thought about, flammable fabrics such as polyester should be avoided. In the day-and-age of high security and the requirement to take your shoes off at security, many people wear slip on shoes to save time. Consider wearing closed-toe shoes with laces or other methods of securing them to your feet to protect your feet in the event of an evacuation. When choosing the clothes you will wear, take the flight path into consideration. You may choose to prepare differently for a flight over mountainous or desert terrain or an oceanic flight.
While packing, pay specific attention to your carry-on baggage. Most airlines only allow one carry-on bag and a personal item (purse, laptop bag, etc.). Ensure the bag will fit in the over-head compartment or completely under the seat. Many unnecessary injuries are caused by flying debris from unsecured carry-on baggage. Remember, anything not properly stowed can become a missile hazard during an accident.
If you are bringing a child that would normally still qualify to use a car seat in a motor vehicle, seriously consider purchasing a ticket for them and bringing a car seat. Airlines are very lenient regarding children and many still allow you to hold your child for the flight. Attempting to hold your child during turbulence proves to be difficult, let alone the catastrophic results of trying to hold them during a crash.
On your way to your seat, mentally note at least two exits. Count the seats to your primary exit. After an accident, visibility may be poor. After you are settled in your seat, note whether it is an emergency exit or not. If it is, read the instructions for opening and egress from the door. Read the safety brochure provided for that aircraft and listen to the safety briefing given by the flight attendant. There may be differences in the aircraft you are in today from aircraft you may have flown in the past.
While in flight, remain seated as much as possible. While seated, always have your lap belt fastened. This will not only protect you from unexpected turbulence, it will be one less thing you need to concentrate on during an emergency. As tempting as it may be to get comfortable, leave your shoes on. Evacuating an aircraft and surviving the elements will be much more difficult and your chances of injury higher without shoes.
The probability of you being involved in an aircraft crash is remote. In the event that it does happen, stay calm. By thinking it through even once before the event, you have mentally and physically prepared more for it than most people on the flight. Remain in your seat until the aircraft has come to a complete stop. Try to maintain your situational awareness as much as possible. After the aircraft noise and movement has stopped, assess your surroundings. Determine whether your primary exit is available and calmly exit the aircraft. If you are being directed by a flight crew member, follow their instructions. They may have information that you do not.
The majority of survivable aircraft crashes occur at airports during landing and takeoff where emergency equipment will probably arrive before you escape from the airplane. Stay as close to the aircraft as safely possible and wait for assistance from emergency crews. Watch for moving vehicles around the aircraft, they may not be watching for you!
In the event that you are a survivor on an aircraft that crashes in a remote area, it is important that you stay close to the aircraft. Ensure that you are a safe distance from the aircraft, yet close enough to see and be seen by rescue crews. It could be minutes, hours or days until your rescue. Administer first-aid to those in need, gather and muster all survivors, then determine the immediate needs for survival in the environment you are in.
If your aircraft has ditched in water, locate a flotation device. Don a life preserver prior to exiting the aircraft. Egress the aircraft via the over-wing exits if possible. Locate and swim if necessary to a life raft and board it.
The survival rate of a major airline crash is very high. It is a safer method of transportation than driving or riding in a car. However, if you do become involved in an aircraft accident, your chances of survival are significantly higher if you have mentally and physically prepared yourself. Take the small amount of time to prepare yourself and you may save your life or the lives of others.