Dying in a plane crash is one of the biggest fears for many of those travelling by air. But this week, when a plane crashed in Mexico, none of the 103 people on board died (even though most of them were injured).
So, how unusual is this? Well, according to a review by the US National Transportation Safety which looked at national aviation accidents from 1983-1999, more than 95 per cent of those on board survived the crash, even in 55 per cent of the most serious accidents.
Experts say flying is one of the safest modes of transportation and that, in fact, you’re more likely to be involved in a crash while driving to the airport than you are up in the air.
The US Department of Transportation’s comparison of accidental death risk backs this up.
Only 138 people die in the US while flying every year, over a five-year average, but 26,676 die in motor vehicles.
Research also showed that poisoning is more likely (15, 206 deaths a year) as is electrocution (410).
In fact, the odds of dying in a plane accident are very low indeed.
“If you take one flight a day, you would on average need to fly every day for 55,000 years before being involved in a fatal crash,” M.I.T’s Sloan School Statistician Arnold Barnett told ABC News.
The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) estimated in 1996 that 90 per cent of all aircraft accidents were technically survivable.
In fact, last year was reported to be the safest in aviation history, with just 325 deaths in 24 fatal crashes. And remember, there are 100,000 flights taking place each day.
There are three general conditions which help determine whether a crash is survivable, Tom Farrier, former director of safety at the Air Transport Association, revealed on knowledge-sharing site Quora.
These are, firstly, whether the forces encountered by human occupants are within the limits of human tolerance (how bad any impact was for the passengers).
Secondly, whether the structures surrounding them (i.e. the plane) remain substantially intact (how much damage was caused to the plane).
And thirdly, whether the post-crash environment presents an immediate threat to occupants or rescuers (how safe the wreckage and environment around it are).
The reason the passengers in Mexico escaped death is because the aircraft crashed shortly after take-off and they were able to escape from the plane before it caught fire.
You can boost your chances of surviving a plane crash, however, do listen to the safety announcement and read the safety card. A good tip is to count the numbers of rows your seat is away from the nearest emergency exits – in case you’re trying to escape in darkness or thick smoke.
Fliers should also wear seatbelts – as tight as possible – and, despite the conspiracy theories, adopt the brace position.
In the brace position, put one hand over the other rather than locking fingers, and protect your knees.
Do this by holding your legs and/or placing your feet flat on the floor, ideally further back than your knees.
If you have additional protection for your head, such as a pillow, put it to use and remove any sharp objects around you. Hold the position until the plane has come to a complete stop.
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