What makes a plane crash survivable

2013-07-08 10:51
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Two killed in San Francisco jet crash

A South Korean passenger jet crashed in San Francisco on Sunday, leaving two dead. See pictures from the scene here.

While a couple of years ago being involved in a large-scale plane crash meant an equally large-scale loss of life, these days your chance for survival has increased dramatically. 

While two teenagers died and a number of people were seriously injured during the crash landing of the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday - it certainly seems remarkable, especially if you look at the images of the burnt-out hull, that the statistics were not more gruesome. 

But these days being an air crash survivors is no longer the exception to the rule. 

Global News reports that according to an Associated Press analysis of US government accident data, there are about two deaths worldwide for every 100 million passengers on commercial flights. The report suggests that a mere decade ago, passengers were 10 times as likely to die when flying on an American plane. Those in the airline industry often say that a person is more likely to die driving to the airport than on a flight.

But why? What's changed?

We take a look at a few of the most important factors:


- According to CNN, the B777 aircraft involved in Saturday's crash, has been designed to allow evacuation of passengers and staff within 90 seconds even if half the doors are inoperable.

- These days planes also have a sounder structure. Global News reports that in the cabin, stronger seats are less likely to move and crush passengers. Seat cushions and carpeting are fire retardant and doors are easier to open. Those improvements allow people to exit the plane more quickly.

- Improvements in cockpit technology also means that the nature of crashes have also changes significantly in the past few years. Planes rarely crash into mountains or each other - accidents that are much more deadly.

- Better radar systems on the ground have also helped. They've prevented planes from going down the wrong taxiway or onto active runways.

Staff training and passenger cooperation

- Training of flight attendants has generally improved over the past few years, as most airlines now train in full-size models of planes that fill with smoke during crash simulations.

- But much of the onus lies on the passengers to pay attention to the safety briefing at the commencement of the flight and to obey rules about leaving belongings like laptops behind in case of an evacuation.

Prepare for the worst

- In an interview with ABC News, Professor Ed Galea of the University of Greenwich, who has spent more than 25 years analyzing how humans react in emergencies, advised that the seconds before impact are the most dangerous and that passengers who have prepared themselves mentally for an emergency are more likely to survive.

- He added that the closer you sit to an emergency exit, the more likely you are to be safe.

- Galea studied the seating charts of more than 100 plane crashes and interviewed dozens of survivors. He uncovered that survivors move an average of five rows before safely exiting a burning plane. He also found seats in the rear of a plane were generally safer, as were aisle seats.

- Finally, remembering the simple mathematical formula plus three, minus eight can boost your survivability factor in the case of an unexpected plane crash, as most accidents happen within the first three minutes of takeoff or in the eight minutes before landing.

- According to Ben Sherwood, author of "The Survivors Club - The Secrets and Science That could Save Your Life" instead of settling in or fiddling with your carry on luggage during these moments, you should stay alert and be ready for any unforeseen circumstances.

Read more on:    asiana airlines  |  travel international  |  flights

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