How to get out of an airplane crash alive | 5 On Your Side Survival Guide

CLEVELAND - The images of the broken, burned out shell of Asiana Flight 214 are haunting. How is it possible that more than 300 passengers got out of this crash alive back in January? 

According to the National Transportation Board's World Wide Accident Rate,' one out of every 1.2 million flights will crash. Most passengers will survive, like the 2005 Air France flight in Toronto or Denver's 2008 Continental crash. And there were no fatalities in the 'Miracle On The Hudson.'

According to the NTSB, 80 percent of airplane crashes happen within the first three minutes after takeoff or in the last eight minutes before landing. 

But experts warn getting out of a plane crash alive can be a matter of minutes, even seconds.

(WEB INTERACTIVE: Your guide to get our of a plane crash alive - http://5.wews.com/qGWNS)

"You need to know yourself how to get out," said Joe Teixeira, the Aircraft Rescue Firefighting Coordinator at Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Michigan. Teixeira added that when the plane goes down, you must kick into survival mode. 

That's exactly what NewsChannel5's Chris Flanagan tried doing in a specially-designed 50-foot long plane simulator. It features fake smoke and fake screams.

"This fire trainer is training the firefighters on the outside who are going to be coming in to do the fire fight,"  Teixeira said. 

Teixeira trains firefighters all over the country, including at Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport, with the mock airplane that simulates fire as part of a mandated Federal Aviation Administration training exercise.

"That's why we try so hard and conduct so much training so we can provide the best environment for the passengers," said Lt. Travers Swardson of the Indianapolis International Fire Department, who was training with Teixeira.

While the firefighters work feverishly to put out the flames, Teixeira showed Flanagan how to get out of an airplane alive.

"If you have a seat in front of you, you want to get down like this and you want to protect one hand because if debris is falling down, if you get a broken arm, you want to unbuckle your belt," Teixeira said.

As smoke quickly fills the cabin, time is not on your side. Statistics show that, typically, it's not the crash that will kill you, but all the smoke and flames. You only have 90 seconds to get out before the flames eat through the skin of the aircraft. 

Your chances of surviving a crash, though, are very good: according to the FAA, 95 percent or better. Teixeira said it's imperative that you know your surroundings.

"In a plane crash you're going to have confusion and smoke. Everyone's running for exits. Maybe I have fire out there, maybe a door is jammed. I need to know where the exits are,"  he said.

Count how many rows you are from the exit row when you first sit down, and if you're in an exit row, knowing how to open and exit door could mean the difference between life and death. As Flanagan scrambled out, firefighters rushed into the plane, pulling life-sized mannequins to safety.

"We can also provide a better environment for them by ventilating the aircraft. We do that by opening doors, emergency escape hatches and cockpit windows."

Another reason it's important to have an action plan is that there's a good chance you won't have too much assistance from the flight crew. Teixeira said one study found that 45 percent of the flight attendants in survivable crashes are incapacitated in some way.

If you exit off the wing of an airplane, go to the rear of the plane.

"If you go forward the engine could still be running, particularly if it's a propeller type. You don't want to walk into the propeller if it's turning," Teixeira said.

Once you're completely off the burning airplane, it doesn't mean you're completely safe.

"You need to go at least 500 feet away from the aircraft. You'll see fire engines responding, the crash trucks.  Don't go towards the crash trucks. They will want to come to the fuselage because that's where a majority of the bodies are, still inside, trapped needing help," Teixeira said.

Also, stay in a group - don't walk away by yourself. It's easier to spot you then. Don't sit down unless you're injured. If you can, stay standing. Fire or explosions can happen at any time after a crash.

Texeira said, "If the crash is in open water, swim as far away from the airplane wreckage as possible."

The FAA found that 40 percent of fatalities that did occur happened in crashes that were survivable. Close to half of all airplane crash fatalities might have been prevented had passengers taken proper action.

More: How to Survive a Plane Crash

Print this article Back to Top

Comments