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How to Survive a Plane Crash


Survival Tips and Crash Myths
View of the wreckage of the AtlasJet Airline MD-83 plane that crashed on the hills near the village of Cukuroren in the southwestern province of Isparta, Turkey.
View of the wreckage of the AtlasJet Airline MD-83 plane that crashed on the hills near the village of Cukuroren in the southwestern province of Isparta, Turkey.
AFP/Stringer/Getty Images

The most common question asked of crash experts is "Is there a safest seat?" Official sources say that it makes no difference because no two plane crashes are alike. Popular Mechanics magazine did some exhaustive research that seems to point to the rear of the plane as the safest spot. They studied data of every U.S. commercial jet crash in the last 36 years and found that passengers 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. The FAA also concluded in a 2005 report that there's no evidence that any one carrier is any safer than the next [source: FAA].

In the event of a crash, there are things you can do to give you a better shot at making it out alive. Following are five tips that everyone should know before they get on their next flight:

  • After you board, find the two closest exits and count the rows between them and your seat. In the event of darkness or smoke, feel the seats and count until you reach the exit row.
  • Ready for the impact. 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.
  • Wear long pants, sleeves and closed-toed shoes. This will help protect you from glass, metal and the elements.
  • If you're with your family, talk to your children about what to do in the event of an emergency. Divide the responsibility of helping your children between you and your spouse. It's easier for one parent to help a single child than for both to try to keep everyone together.
  • Pay atte­ntion to the preflight instructions, as all planes are different. When the oxygen mask drops, put it on yourself first before attempting to help someone else. If you fall unconscious, you have no chance of helping your travel mate.­­­

In the next section, we'll look at some more tips as well as some common mistakes passengers make.


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