Just last Saturday, Asiana Flight 214 crashed at San Francisco International Airport. This horrible tragedy might further instill fear in those who hate to fly and make us all wonder if the skies are truly as safe as we’re told. On the other hand, it teaches us that even these types of crashes are survivable.
Over 300 people were on-board when the plane crashed on the runway and caught on fire. Sadly, two 16-year-old girls from China were killed and 181 people were injured, with at least 22 in critical condition.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, only one in 1.2 million flights result in accidents. That’s not much comfort for the families of the deceased and survivors of the crash. However, what is comforting is the safety precautions airline passengers can take to prepare for such situations that could make the difference between life and death.
Professor Ed Galea of the University of Greenwich has 30 years’ experience researching how people react in emergencies, and says the seconds before the crash are the most important – and most dangerous. He claims we’re responsible for our own lives in such instances, and if we know what we’re doing, we have a far better chance of survival.
A major factor to determining your fate in such a crash is to sit as close to an exit as possible. Galea studied seating charts of over 100 plane crashes and interviewed numerous survivors. His research shows that survivors move an average of five rows before exiting to safety from a plane crash. Seats in the rear of the plane and aisle seats are also safer. And as people tend to “freeze up” in emergency situations, being prepared in advance for a crash can help trigger them to take the steps necessary for survival.
In 2012, the Discovery Channel filmed a test crash of a Boeing 727 in the Sonoran Desert that revealed bracing for impact increases your chances of surviving a crash. The plane was equipped with crash test dummies as passengers and some brave human pilots who bailed out of a hatch in the back of the aircraft just minutes before the crash. During the crash, the dummies seated near the front were the first hit, with the first seven rows being considered “fatal” incidents. Those sitting within five rows of an exit gave passengers the best chance of survival and/or escape. Also according to the test crash, flying debris could play a role in injuries and deaths of passengers sitting upright.
Ben Sherwood, author of “The Survivors Club – The Secrets and Science That Could Save Your Life” and president of ABC News says that most accidents happen within the first three minutes of takeoff or the eight minutes before landing. If you have a plan, pay attention, and act upon what you know, your chances of surviving are much better.
In recent years, the aviation industry has beefed up its protection for passengers with stronger seats, more flame retardant plane parts and improve firefighting techniques. Despite this most recent crash, there’s really no need to worry about flying if what the experts say is true. According to MIT International Center for Air Transportation Director John Hansman, Jr., “Riding on a commercial airplane has got about the same amount of risk as riding on an escalator.” Still, plane crashes do happen and can be horrific, as evidenced by Asiana Flight 214.