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How to Survive a Plane Crash

FAA's Tips for Air Travelers

Brace Yourself

Sometimes, passengers and crew get some advance warning. The JetBlue passengers had lots of time to prepare as their plane burned off fuel for hours before making the emergency landing.

If time is on your side, make the most of it. Review safety information about bracing for those landings, says Corbett.

The brace position depends on where you're sitting, she says. For passengers with a seat in front of them, the suggested brace position is to cross your hands on the seat in front of you and rest your forehead on top of your hand, says Corbett.

"That way, you don't have as far forward to flail if you didn't have your head there," she explains. "Also, it's more difficult to get way down and hug your knees when you're in a seat that has another seat in front of it."

If you don't have a seat in front of you, bend over as far as you can, grab your legs behind your knees, and keep your head down until the plane stops, says Corbett.

Sharp objects shouldn't be in your pockets, due to security rules. Airlines may have their own standards about whether eyeglasses should be removed, says Corbett. Take pens and pencils out of your pockets.

Protect Your Legs and Feet

"We've also recommended that you try to get your feet planted as far back as you can …. simply because of the way that the legs and feet tend to fly out," says Corbett, noting reports of broken bones from poor foot positioning.

"We also recommend that carry-on baggage be put under the seat and not in the overhead [bin]. That gives a block there, so the feet and legs can't go up under the seat in front," says Corbett.

Follow Instructions if Available

If a flight attendant is able to give directions after a crash, obey them. But sometimes, flight crews aren't able to do that.

"That's why it is important to know what to do, even without the orders," says Corbett. "Some people sit and wait for orders and if they don't hear any, then they sit right through the disaster."

Reports from the National Transportation Safety Board have noted some crash victims "are found sitting in their seats still buckled in," says Corbett. "So, you don't have to wait for orders to be able to evacuate."

"But generally, when it's time to evacuate, somebody's going to be yelling, 'Remove your seatbelts, get up, evacuate now,'" says Corbett.

"Each situation is going to be unique, but that doesn't mean you have to sit and wait for an order to be able to do something, and it's important to know what to do."

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