Why do you need to read this at all? Aircraft crashes (or "mishaps" as those of us in the "Business" prefer to term them) are particularly deadly. Have a problem with that? Head over to and go through the aviation mishap database. Interesting reading. There are two primary types of aircraft mishap that will be dealt with, the first of those being conventional land mishaps. We will then later deal with what to do if the plane hits the water.
(If you are looking for helicopter-related mishap survival, make with the pointy-pointy clicky-clicky since there are some specifics involved.)

For starters we have several tips that are going to greatly increase the chances of your making it out of the plane and not onto the next plane:

-The aircraft is out to get you.
The airlines will tell you that their planes are safe and that the crew is your friend. The airplanes that I have had the misfortune of being intimately acquainted with could really give a damn whether you live or die. However much anthropomorphic value you decide to assign to this machine, it will not care if its engines turn you to pulp or if it slams you into the ground at over 900 miles per hour. It is violent. It is deadly. It is a machine and it wants to kill you dead because that is what it does when you fail to respect the enormity and the responsibility of flying the friendly skies.

-Sit toward the rear of the aircraft and preferably in an over-wing door or other emergency exit row.
The most structurally dense piece of any airframe is the section that bonds the fuselage (the big tube thingy you sit in) to the wings (the part that usually adorned with some engines.) In a mishap you want the strong parts around you, just as in an automobile accident.

-Remain calm.
Do not panic. Everyone around you will panic the instant Captain Smee comes over the microphone with something like “sweet merciful Christ we’re all in for it now” or “I realize that we are only halfway to Los Angeles at the moment, however the plane has decided that we’re going to Kansas instead so buckle up, buttercup.” Panicking will lead you to make a bad decision, and this will cause you to die.

-Have a plan.
When the flight attendants talk to you about locating the emergency exit nearest you and making a note of it, this is not done for their own amusement. Remember this for later. Whenever you board a commercial or private aircraft you should get in the habit of developing at least THREE ways of getting out in the event of an emergency. Repeat these procedures until they are the first things out of your mouth if you wake up suddenly.

-Understand a little bit of basic human psychology and physiology in an emergency situation.
When people panic in groups their first impulse is to follow the person in front of them. This is because your body is reacting with something that is known as a ‘fight or flight’ reaction. The people all pressing in front of you have to be going somewhere, there must be a hole to escape from up there or they wouldn’t all be going up there would they? No, they aren’t and you are going to die here if you follow this particular course of action.

-Get religion.
If you are just beyond rotation (the point at which the nose of the aircraft comes off of the ground) or at altitude there is a very strong possibility that you are not going to make it out of where you are alive. You are most likely going to survive if you are engaged in or about to be engaged in a final descent and landing. That is you are unless the pilot balls it up right there on the side of the runway.
If you are to the point where the oxygen masks are flopping out of the ceiling and you are watching you luggage pop out of the overhead bins because of G-loading, I’m really very sorry. Pray hard, and fast.

Fixed Wing Aircraft Mishap Survival (Wide-Body Commercial and Small Fixed-Wing, Over Land):
Alternative Title: Collision With Planet Earth.
Time Estimated for Completion: 2-8 seconds from completion of aircraft impact sequence.

Required Materials:
-One aircraft either in or about to enter a state of severe aerodynamic duress.

Word GO:
1. Unrecoverable Flight Regime……..…..ENTER (PILOT)
This is the decision point where your fate will be determined. As cruel as this sounds, if your aircraft is being brought down because of a jammed flight control or due to severe icing then there is little you are going to be able to do save accept your fate.

2. Aircraft Crashing……………………CONFIRM (PILOT)
Now is this severe turbulence, a catastrophic engine failure, perhaps some similar somewhat serious (although definitely disconcerting) mechanical problem or is it an actual crash? A McDonnell Douglas MD11 or Boeing 747-400 can fly with one or more engines no longer producing a significant amount of thrust. Should all of the engines stop or some large piece of the airplane snap off, now you have a problem to be worried about.

3. Passengers………………………….INFORM (PILOT)
If the man up front is talking to you, then you’re probably going to be just fine. Things to watch for here include luggage bins overhead coming open on their own along with the sensation that you are three or four times heavier than you are normally. If this is the case then you are experiencing what is known as “G-loading” or “pulling G.” This condition occurs when the aircraft is turning very sharply at a high rate of speed and is NOT AT ALL NORMAL for a commercial aircraft.
(If you are in a military fighter aircraft I recommend you stop reading this and locate the nearest ‘receptacle.’ This is probably your left or right glove and should have been a brief item that you will know what you will need for by the time you get to the end of this sentence.)

4. Point of Reference…………………….LOCATE (YOU)
When the impact sequence is complete what was over your head may no longer be up anymore. If this is the case or not you are going to need to think spatially in terms of the aircraft, DO NOT LISTEN TO WHAT YOUR HEAD IS TELLING YOU. You will more than likely be quite disoriented following the impact and your inner ear (this is the bit that tells you that ‘down’ is down and so forth,) may not be reliable anymore. (It bears mentioning that if explosive cabin decompression occurs, you will probably not have an inner ear anymore nor will you have eardrums.) Your head may be screaming that ‘up is that way’ when in all actuality it is left or slightly to the reverse and down. Therefore memorize the area of the cabin you are in and remember where it is you need to go when you get farther down the list.

5. Nearest Exit…………………………….LOCATE (YOU)
Put this in relation to the last part of Step 4 and continue. Begin to repeat this sequence of movement and actions both orally and mentally where your exit is located and how you are going to get there. Do not stop until you are well clear of the aircraft. REMEMBER THAT THE DOOR YOU CAN SEE MAY NOT BE THE CLOSEST DOOR TO YOUR SEAT. LOOK BEHIND YOU.

6. Personal Possessions…………………JETTISON (YOU)
Apologies for being blunt but you do not need that crap. Drop it, drop it now. Unless that is the cure for AIDS or the ultimate longer lasting light bulb you don’t need it and you don’t want it flying into your face at 250 miles per hour. Let me again say this for the dense among you: IF YOU HOLD ON TO IT DURING THE CRASH YOU ARE GOING TO WEAR IT OR EAT IT. THAT OBJECT IS NOT YOUR FRIEND.

7. Crash Position…………………….…….ASSUME (YOU)
Pay attention. Neatness counts.

8. Deity/Deities of Choice…………………BUM FAVOR (YOU)
Doesn’t hurt.

9. Impact……………………………………SURVIVE (YOU)
Important part here kids. Wait until the ride has come to a complete stop before bailing.

10. Aircraft………………………………….FLEE (YOU)
Well here’s the end. Don’t forget to unbuckle your seatbelt and remember that no one is going for the exits in the rear of the aircraft. It is natural human instinct to go out the plane the way you came in and to also just follow the crowd. Unless you are the one holding that emergency exit hatch handle in your hand you are probably not going to get out of the door that everyone else is going for at the moment. You are going to die of smoke inhalation, just like the vast majority of those who also survived the impact. Turn around and go over the seats if necessary, get out of that plane before you burn. The crash may have opened large holes in the airplane, by all means it is not necessary to use the door on fire simply because it is a door when there is a fifty foot hole behind you.

Fixed Wing Aircraft Mishap Survival (Wide-Body Commercial and Small Fixed-Wing, Over Water):
Alternative Title: Putting it in The Drink.
Time Estimated for Completion: 2-8 seconds from completion of aircraft impact sequence.

Required Materials:
-One aircraft either in or about to enter a state of severe aerodynamic duress over a body of water.

Note: Some of the steps are the same as the above, be aware that the latter portion of this checklist changes very quickly and will need to be executed as rapidly as possible.

1. Unrecoverable Flight Regime………..ENTER (PILOT)

2. Aircraft Crashing………………………CONFIRM (PILOT)

3. Feed the Cat……………………………REMEMBER FORGETTING

4. Point of Reference……………………..LOCATE (YOU)

5. Nearest Exit…………………………….LOCATE (YOU)
The critical nature of this step cannot be overemphasized in this case. The first thing you are going to confront once the crash sequence has completed is water, and a lot of it, entering the cabin. As you may already know (unless you are Aqua Man, Jesus Christ, dead, some sort of Grade-A freak or just a sarcastic (t)wit), you cannot breathe underwater. As such, speed is of the essence.

6. Personal Possessions…………………JETTISON (YOU)

DO NOT INFLATE YOUR LIFE JACKET UNTIL YOU ARE CLEAR OF THE AIRFRAME. In a few moments where you are sitting is going to be underwater. If you are wearing an inflated flotation device you are going to float to the highest point in the cabin and remain there. This is going to be both a severe bummer and serious impediment to your exiting the aircraft.

7. Crash Position………………………….ASSUME (YOU)

8. Deity/Deities of Choice………………...BUM FAVOR (YOU)

9. Impact……………………………………SURVIVE (YOU)

Note: Here is where things go different.

10. Aircraft Motion Ceased………………CONFIRM (YOU)
Now why this? When aircraft crash on land they behave differently. Most aircraft will roll inverted (upside down) or pitch nose down after hitting the water as it is trying to seek equilibrium while sinking.
Larger helicopters (such as the H-60/H-70 and S-76) are notorious for flipping as soon as they hit the water due to the weight of the gearbox. If you are in a high-wing aircraft (meaning you will see the bottom of the wing if you are sitting in the cabin) you are not going to roll over. What will happen is that the airframe is going to sink up to the wings and then sit there for a spell. This "spell" as stated here has a large amount to do with how well sealed the wings are and how much buoyancy they provide.
If you are in a low-wing (meaning that you see the top of the wings while sitting in the cabin) you may or may not roll, depending on aircraft type. Most low-wing wide bodied civilian airliners will not roll and may remain semi-buoyant for anywhere between fifteen and twenty seconds after landing.
“May” is the operative word here. There is no guarantee that the airframe will not suffer some sort of catastrophic damage during the crash sequence that causes it to fill with water and sink immediately.

11. Aircraft…………………………………PREPARE TO FLEE (YOU)
Find any hole you can to get out of the airplane, and this may involve swimming down into flooded sections of the aircraft. That is if you can get past the mad, frenzied, pack of idiots plugging up the aircraft. It is advisable that if you can see daylight (meaning not underwater) out of a door window, that you open this door and use it immediately.
If the aircraft is already filling with water, wait until it has passed you before opening the door. The pressure of the water entering the cabin into open space will prevent you from exiting until some equalization between the pressures has been reached.

12. Aircraft…………………………………FLEE (YOU)
Give two strong scissor kicks once you THINK you are clear of the airframe. If you hit something with your foot, swim forward until you can kick twice without coming in contact with anything solid.

13. Flotation Device………………………INFLATE (YOU)
Enjoy the ride. Let’s all hope you fair better than Mr. Hanks.

-Navy Aviation Physiology School Class Notes and Text.
-OPNAVINST 3710.7S: Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardizations Manual.
-A1-SRRPV-NFM-500: RQ-2B Pilot Checklist
-A1-SRRPV-NFM-000: (Chapter 13, baby) RQ-2B NATOPS

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