Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My wings have no feathers

Just to make this clear. I'm not afraid of flying. 
warning: this is a really long blog

That said, I am someone who has a strong sense of survival. Whatever is going to happen, whatever is gonna go down, I´ll be one of the people who survive it. The key is preparedness. I have a stack of at least 10 books solely based on how to survive certain situations. A simple small SAS survival book, a "when shit hits the fan in the whole world" survival book, books which teach you what to do if you get lost while hiking and so on. They aren't just decoration or for my piece of mind, I've read most of them and glance through them every once in a while.

It's easy to think you are invulnerable, or that "those kind of things" don't happen to you. But they can happen to you. Everyone thinks they won't fall in a crevice while hiking or that they won't get stalked by some rapist. But it could be you who breaks their leg and gets stranded on a mountain while it storms and it could be you who gets kidnapped in a foreign country and executed on television. That's the brutal truth of it.

Enough scaring.

The important thing is that I am aware of this fact and thus I prepare myself mentally what to do if such an occasion occurs. Am I being paranoid? Only if nothing happens to me. If anything bad does happen and my preparedness helped get me out of that situation I am suddenly smart for it. Don't blame me for wanting to err on the side of caution. I'd rather be made fun of and never need my preparation than die/suffer unnecessarily because I went full ostrich mode on the world.

But why am I here ranting about this on my blog. My blog that's supposedly about my transition of moving from the Netherlands to the States. Well, obviously I am going to fly there. As a matter of fact, in exactly one week I'll be on an airplane with the destination Florida! And every time I get on an airplane I ask myself, what if we crash? So I have read up on the subject and prepared myself. Read on if you wish to live, puny mortals.

The chance that you are in an airplane that crashes is 1 in 9 million. Quite low, although still higher chances than winning a lottery. However, it's completely out of your hands if an airplane crashes or not. So it could definitely happen that you got unlucky and bam, engines catch on fire. Whatever safety measure they have for solving that is naturally not working, cause why would it. Now what do you do!

Let's stop there and rewind.

What do you do is the wrong question. Maybe not the wrong question, but you already should have done something before this all went down. Mainly, the seat selection. Don't buy all those airplane companies when they say that it doesn't matter where you sit. It does.

A couple studies have been done based on the data of already crashed airplanes, and a study has been done where they crashed an airplane on purpose with dummies in it. First of all, the site Popular Mechanics has poured over all the details of old plane crashes. You can read their conclusions here. But I'd like to summarize it for you.
Survival rates for various parts of the passenger cabin, based on an analysis of all commercial jet crashes in the United States since 1971 where detailed seating charts were available. (Illustration by Gil Ahn. Diagram Courtesy of
Long story short, sitting in the back significantly increases your chances of survival when the planes crashes to the ground/water. The first class and business class who are in the front have the worst chances of survival of all the seats. So that's pretty clear.

Then there are other studies which show where you are better of sitting in case of a fire.
In an article in the daily mail it describes that when seated more than 6 rows from an exit it increases the chances to perish. Though when you look at it logically, sitting close to an emergency exit will increase your chances in whatever emergency there is, not just with a fire. The picture above shows your survival chances based on seating areas. Apparently when you solely look at fires, being at the front is more favourable. This article also mentioned a marginal difference in your survival chances depending if you have a window seat or an aisle seat. 6% increased odds if you sit at the aisle.

Third, a documentary The Crash has done a test by crashing an airplane with dummies and analysing the data. The Telegraph wrote an article about it here. Now one test doesn't say much, but it's results support the study of Popular Mechanics.
"The Crash" found that the first eleven rows were completely ripped apart with a force of 12G. The back of the airplane felt forces around 6G. Their conclusions were that while none of the first class would have survived, 78% of the economy class would have, and the further back they would have been sitting the better their chances.

They also experimented with dummies in 3 different positions. One in the proper seatbelt and bracing position, one with a seatbelt but sitting normally and the last one without a seatbelt and sitting normally. The unfastened dummy would have died, the one in a normal position would have suffered severe head injuries and the dummy in a "proper" position would have been fine. So don't underestimate those seatbelts! Also worth mentioning, make sure your seatbelt is snug and as low on your abdomen as possible. That part of your body is better suited to absorb shocks (same counts for seatbelts in cars).

So how I have interpreted all this information is to sit within 5 rows of the exit situated nearest the rear end of the airplane and to have an aisle seat. And thus when we ordered tickets and could choose seats, that's exactly where Michael and I will be sitting!

So let's go back to the future again. The engines catch on fire and you are in the perfect seat. What do you do! Well thankfully the site wikihow wrote an article where they describe how to best increase your odds of survival. It all comes down to paying attention and preparing yourself. You can read the wikihow article here: I suggest everyone at least read it once. You never know when that extra tidbit of information might save your life.

I will hopefully never need any of this information. But coming next week, I'm prepared. No crash is going to get the best of  me.

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