I feel a little strange placing this story in the Planning a Trip category because, well, you probably shouldn’t plan on your plane going nose-first into the ground on your next airborne voyage. But thanks to an experimental passenger jet crash in the Sonoran desert, you can now take some simple plane crash survival tips with you on your next (hopefully safe) vacation.

A team of scientists at the Discovery Channel spent four years planning this controlled crash, which went down (ha ha) last spring. While I’m sure they nerded out over seeing a big plane go boom, the real reason behind the test crash was to gain a better understanding of how a crash landing affects passengers positioned in different ways throughout the plane. According to ABC:

In one of the most ambitious tests ever undertaken in the name of airline safety, Discovery TV had a Boeing 727 equipped with more than a half a million dollars worth of crash test dummies, 38 specialized cameras and sensors, and a crew of incredibly daring pilots. The pilots, who’d donned parachutes, bailed out of a hatch in the back of the aircraft minutes before the huge jetliner careered into the ground in a horrific crash that tore the plane apart.

After the epic desert landing, professor of biomedical engineering Cindy Bir gave each test dummy a thorough examination to hypothesize how they would have fared in the crash had they been real people. Her findings reiterated a lot of things you’ve probably heard in the pre-flight safety demonstration (or not, since no one pays attention to those), but her findings offer valuable plane crash survival tips regardless:

  • “Bracing for impact” is a tried-and-true method for surviving a plane crash — putting your head between your knees and your hands over your head increases your odds of living to tell your harrowing tale.
  • If you don’t assume this position you increase your chances for spinal injury from lurching into your seatbelt.
  • Passengers in the first seven rows of the aircraft are the most likely to perish, which will make you think twice about paying for first class. The dummy in seat 7A was even ejected from the plane!
  • Holding a baby in your lap might save you money on an extra seat, but it’s highly dangerous in a crash as even a minor bump can loosen a parent’s grip on their child.
  • Because of flying debris, fire, and other scary plane crash accouterments, it’s imperative to get out of the plane ASAP. Passengers seated within 5 rows of an emergency exit have the best odds.

If you still have nightmares about that X Files episode where an alien spacecraft collides with a plane (like I do), watching the footage from inside the cabin during the test crash is probably a bad idea. If you think you can handle it, however, feel free to watch below. Who knows, it could one day save your life — you just have to put up with the mental trauma in the meantime.


Steven tried out for The Amazing Race one time and was denied. We're not saying this is why he started this site, but it may have been a contributing factor in his decision to explore the world online and share his travel inspiration with others.



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