How to survive a plane crash: Tips from Greenwich professor

Date of release: Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Professor Ed GaleaA number of simple measures can increase your chance of surviving a plane crash according to Professor Ed Galea, Director of the Fire Safety Engineering Group at the University of Greenwich.

More than 90 per cent of plane crashes in recent years had survivors. Some experts believe that almost one-third of deaths in aeroplane accidents could have been prevented if people knew what to do and took action.

Based on an analysis of the seating charts from more than 100 plane crashes, Professor Galea found that people seated within five rows of a serviceable exit were most likely to escape. Passengers in aisle seats were also more likely to survive than those in window seats.

Many passengers survive the initial impact but don’t get off the plane quickly enough – and it’s the first 90 seconds after a crash that are considered the most important by safety experts.

Professor Galea suggests passengers count the rows to their nearest exit before take-off. That way, in the event of smoke filling the cabin or if emergency lighting fails and it’s very dark, you will know the number of seat rows and can feel your way to an exit.

After interviewing 1,900 survivors and 155 cabin-crew members, Professor Galea made an interesting discovery. Most passengers lose valuable time because they struggle to undo their seatbelts.

“People tend to try and press a button on the seatbelt, because in this emergency situation they revert to normal behaviour. And what is normal behaviour for most people? Well, they experience a seatbelt in their car and in their car, which is a push-button system.”

Other experts advised keeping your shoes on during take-off and landing, staying low in the cabin if there is smoke and not trying to recover your luggage.

The University of Greenwich’s Fire Safety Engineering Group is a world leader in computational fire engineering. It has unparalleled expertise in aircraft, building, ship and rail evacuation and fire modelling to simulate how people behave in a crisis, and how fire, smoke, toxic gases and heat spread through a burning aircraft or building.

Find out more about its research, please see

Based on an article by Rachel Burge in MSN Travel:

Story by Public Relations