How to survive if an aircraft crashes underwater

Do you pay attention to your air stewards during the safety demonstration before take-off? Or do you bury your head in your newspaper thinking “it won’t happen to me!” Be honest now!

The people in this video have decided to take the demonstration seriously by taking a class how to survive an aircrash if it happens over the sea.

David Learmount reported that global figures for commercial aviation crashes in 2007 are at an all-time low, which is obviously good news, but nevertheless it is important to be aware of how to get yourself out of a sticky situation.

The video shows people getting into an aircraft simulator, the “Dunker”, in a swimming pool and surviving underwater. They each get a certificate in crash survival for “peace of mind” in the knowledge that they have prepared themselves and know how to live through a crash by putting into practice using the life jacket and getting onto the raft.

It takes about 30s to escape from the Dunker. I wouldn’t like to try it – I have a fear of being under water after a kayaking lesson where I tried and tried to learn, unsuccessfully, to perform an eskimo roll.

Perhaps one day I will be forced to face my fears…

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3 Responses to How to survive if an aircraft crashes underwater

  1. MauroS 4 January, 2008 at 8:55 pm #

    Ditching and surviving? Maybe in a helicopter or a small plane. There’s no such a thing as “surviving a ditch” in a modern Western jet. Never happened. That picture you see on the emergency card with a plane floating and passengers calmly floating around or sitting on the window is a piece of fiction, more fantastic than any in-flight movie.

  2. Chris C 8 January, 2008 at 8:32 am #

    There’s no such thing as surviving a ditching in a modern, Western jet? I think you’ll find that statement is completely false.

    So, the 30 people that survived the ditching of an ONA DC-9 off the coast of St. Croix in 1970 were just a figment of the imagination, were they?

    Or was the DC-9 not classed as ‘modern’, ‘Western’ or a ‘jet’ back then?

  3. MauroS 8 January, 2008 at 11:24 am #

    I suppose this is the accident you mention: http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19700502-0. One third of the people died (23/63); it doesn’t seem like a very successful ditching, not the kind I see on any safety card.

    If you want to count unsuccessful ditchings, there’s this famous one about the Ethiopian 767 where about one third of the people (50) survived: http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19961123-0. There’s video and several TV documentaries available; survival was more or less random. It also seems that having wing-mounted engines, like all airlines currently in production doesn’t help much (check the video).

    But let’s count those two as “successful ditching”. 90 people survived. So in 50 years of jet aviation the airlines transported tens of billions of people (3.3 billion in 2000 alone – http://encarta.msn.com/text_761552091___8/Air_Transport_Industry.html). 90 in tens of billions is nothing. I am sure more people died by choking with food inside airline terminals worldwide during this period. Or by slipping on wet floor inside or on snow outside. Or driving to the airport. Or bitten by wild animals inside the terminal (spiders and bees can be deadly if you are allergic).

    In any security measure there’s the question of cost-effectiveness or even simple effectiveness. Suppose this “ditching training” were thought to be “good for you” and the regulators demanded it be made by all the hundreds of millions individual passengers before flying, like taking a yellow fever shot for some destinations. How many people would die in the classes themselves? How many would die in a traffic accident on the way to the class? In 50 years. Many more than 90, I am sure. So the training is actually “bad for you”. It could be fun – some people fly hand gliders, a notoriously unsafe thing to do but said to be fun.

    Do you know why smallpox vaccination is not mandatory worldwide, despite that: 1)it used to be and 2)there’s a potential terrorist threat of using it? It’s because 2 people per million die by the vaccination itself. If the health authorities in the USA demanded it, they would be condemning 600 people to death. When smallpox was endemic, that was a risk worth taking. Not anymore – or so the authorities think.

    If you are flying in a helicopter to an offshore drilling platform, the ditch training is a risk worth taking. If you are an average Joe flying in an airline, it’s not.

    BTW, this is the only really successful ditching I could find (and it was not by a western aircraft): http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19630821-2. I don’t count as ditching landings on very shallow water (where the aircraft would touch the bottom) and runway overruns/underruns.

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