Could you survive a plane crash?

Estimated Completion Time
3 min
Could you survive a plane crash?
Image: Franco Banfi/WaterFrame/Getty Images

About This Quiz

You probably figure you're a goner in the event of a plane crash, right? In some situations, yes, but don't count yourself out. With some advance planning and quick thinking you could improve your chances -- even when falling from 35,000 feet.
You're more likely to die in a plane crash than in a car accident.
fact
fiction
According to the Aircraft Crashes Record office, your chances of dying in a plane crash are one in 11 million. Car accident: one in 5,000.
almost fact: You're more likely to die in a small plane crash than in a car accident.

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Plane-crash survival rates in the United States are about 50-50.
fact
fiction
Actually, your chances are much greater than that. More than 90 percent survived the 568 plane crashes in the United States between 1983 and 2000.
almost fact: It's more like 25 percent.

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It's just a matter of chance who survives a crash -- there's not much you can do save yourself.
fact
fiction
almost fact: Much of it is a matter of chance, but there are steps you can take to increase your odds.
People who've kept their wits about them and had a "crash plan" have ended up surviving against the odds.

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The safest area of an airplane is generally the first-class section.
fact
fiction
almost fact: One study says it's the back of the plane.
So much depends on the exact circumstances of the crash, but a study by Popular Mechanics magazine showed that you're 40 percent more likely to survive a crash if you're sitting in the rear.

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United Airlines has been shown to be the safest American carrier.
fact
fiction
A 2005 report by the FAA concluded that there is no one safest airline.
almost fact: It's US Airways.

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One of the first things you should do after boarding a plane is to count the number of rows between you and the nearest two exits.
fact
Chances are it will be smoky or dark after a crash, so you'll want to be able to find your way to an exit by counting rows.
fiction
almost fact: The first thing you should do is check if your oxygen mask works.

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The proper crash position is to curl up on your seat and cover your head.
fact
fiction
The official FAA crash position is to extend your arms, cross your hands and place them on the seat in front of you, and then place your head against the back of your hands. Tuck your feet under your seat as far as you can.
almost fact: You should hold on to the person next to you.

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It's better to wear natural fibers instead of synthetics when you're on a plane.
fact
Synthetic fibers could melt onto your skin in the event of a fire, so stick with cotton and wool.
fiction
almost fact: Synthetic fibers are better.

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It's best to wear pants, long sleeves and close-toed shoes.
fact
Covering your body -- including your feet -- as much as possible will give you more protection in the event of a crash.
fiction
almost fact: Pants and long sleeves, yes, but it doesn't matter about the shoes.

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If you're traveling with a spouse and children, one parent should take responsibility for the kids.
fact
fiction
almost fact: You should divide the responsibility so one person isn't trying to look after multiple children.
Actually, dividing the responsibility is better.

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If the oxygen masks drop, you should put yours on first before helping anyone else.
fact
Even if your seatmate looks totally helpless -- and even if you're with a child -- you should always secure your own mask first.
fiction
almost fact: Yes, if you're sitting next to a healthy adult. If you're sitting next to a child, elderly or sick person, put his or her mask on first.

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Smoke and fumes from a burning plane are extremely toxic. If the plane has crashed and is on fire, you should strap on your oxygen mask and stay put unless you see a clear path to an exit.
fact
fiction
You need to get out of the plane as fast as possible, but the secret is staying low to avoid the toxic fumes.
almost fact: If you see a clear path to an exit, make a run for it.

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If you're able to exit the plane within 90 seconds after a crash, you have the best chance of survival.
fact
The first 90 seconds after a crash are known as "the golden time" -- people who get out within this time have a good chance of survival. But staying calm is the key.
fiction
almost fact: The first three minutes are the most crucial exit time.

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You should never bring your carry-on or any bags with you when you're escaping from a crashed plane.
fact
Don't worry about your things -- just get out of the plane.
fiction
almost fact: If you're right by the exit, go ahead and grab your carry-on.

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In the case of a water landing, you should inflate your vest immediately so it's ready once you hit the water.
fact
fiction
almost fact: Inflate your vest once you're out of the plane.
Wearing an inflated vest will make it harder for you to maneuver in the plane, so wait until you're out of the cabin.

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If your plane explodes at 35,000 feet, you're definitely a goner.
fact
fiction
almost fact: You're most likely a goner, yes. But Popular Mechanics magazine claims there are some steps you can take to save your life, even free-falling from 35,000 feet.
You will probably die if this happens. But read on to find out what you can do to help your chances.

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Your fall to Earth from 35,000 feet will take about three minutes.
fact
You have three minutes, according to Popular Mechanics. You'll probably pass out for the first minute, then wake up and have just enough time to figure out where to land.
fiction
almost fact: It'll actually take about one minute.

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If you see a body of water, you should try to land in it.
fact
fiction
"Liquid doesn’t compress," says the Popular Mechanics article. "Hitting the ocean is essentially the same as colliding with a sidewalk."
almost fact: Only if it's a really large body of water, like an ocean or big lake. A pond or river would not be good.

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A swamp would be about the best place you could land after a 35,000-foot fall.
fact
Snow is good, but soft, murky swamps are the best, according to Popular Mechanics.
fiction
almost fact: Snowbanks are even better.

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As you're falling, you should curl up into a ball to protect your limbs.
fact
fiction
almost fact: You should splay out like a sky diver.
Falling face-down with limbs stretched out is the way to go -- it maximizes wind resistance and slows your fall.

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Franco Banfi/WaterFrame/Getty Images
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