How To ACTUALLY Survive Falling Out of an Airplane
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How To ACTUALLY Survive Falling Out of an Airplane

February 18, 2020

January 3, 1943 – During an air raid, B-17
bombers darken the skies over Nazi-occupied Saint Nazaire, France. An attack from German anti-aircraft artillery
rips through a gun turret on one of the planes. Thankfully the gunner, U.S. Army Air Force
Staff Sergeant Alan Magee is unharmed, but his parachute has been shredded. Suddenly more flak blows off part of the plane’s
right wing, setting the bomber aflame and sending it into a deadly tail spin. What happens next is miraculous–Magee blacks
out and is thrown clear of the plane. He falls over 4 miles, some 22,000 ft (6,706
m) and lives. He crashes through the glass roof of a train
station, suffering severe injuries. However, German doctors nurse him back to
health and Magee spends most of the rest of World War II as a POW. Interestingly, Sgt. Magee isn’t the only person to have survived
falling out of an airplane. On January 26, 1972, Vesna Vulovic, a flight
attendant was the sole survivor after a bomb exploded aboard JAT Yugoslav Airlines flight
JU 367. She fell some 33,330 ft; (10,160 m) earning
a spot in the Guinness World Records for surviving the highest fall without a parachute. Also, who can forget brave Juliane Koepcke,
whom we profiled in our episode She Fell 10,000 Feet And Survived 11 Days In The Amazon Rainforest! Juliane survived an incredible 2 mile (3.2
km) fall and then a trek through the jungle while severely injured! We don’t even think we could survive a 2
mile jog, let alone a fall… How common is it to survive falling out of
an airplane though? Is there anything you can do to improve your
chances of surviving? The median lethal distance for falls is four
stories or about 48 feet (14.6 m). This means that 50% of people who fall from
four stories will sustain fatal injuries. It only gets worse as height increases. At 7 stories or 84 feet (25 m), the chance
of survival are 1 in 10. So unfortunately, the chances of survival
when falling out of an airplane are pretty slim. No official statistics exist, however according
to various aviation accident websites there are less than 50 known cases of survival when
falling from a plane. That would include falling out of an airplane
without a parachute like Sgt. Magee or falling attached to airplane debris
like Vulovic or Koepcke. If you’re gonna survive a plummet, it’s
better to fall from the cruising altitude of a commercial flight which is typical around
35,000 ft (10,668 m) rather than a shorter distance of 1,500 ft (457 m). That sounds a little crazy, but hear us out. Falling from around 1,500 ft (457 m) or a
distance just a little taller than the Empire State building, means you’ll reach your
terminal velocity before you hit the ground. As gravity pulls you toward earth, you fall
faster, however at the same time your drag increases. When downward force equals upward resistance,
acceleration stops and you reach the fastest speed you will descend at or your terminal
velocity. For average adult humans this is around 120-130
mph (193-209 kph). So the impact speed is the same whether you
fall from 35,000 ft (10,668 m) versus 1,500 (457 m). What’s different is time.1,500 ft (457 m)
is going to only give you approximately 10-12 seconds of freefall before impact while falling
from 35,000 ft (10,669 m) or over 6.6 miles (10.6 km) will give you about 3 minutes of
freefall before you potentially become a pancake. Actually, before and as you fall out of the
plane, if possible grab ahold of plane debris. Becoming a ‘wreckage rider’ a term coined
by Jim Hamilton, creator the Free Fall Research website, a database cataloguing known free
falls, can help you survive the plunge by adding some protection and even somewhat cushioning
your fall. Also, the larger surface area of the debris
area increases air drag, slowing your descent. Flight attendant Vulovic fell jammed between
her seat, a catering cart, the body of another crew member and a section of the airplane. Though she was severely injured, being enclosed
in debris helped to shield her from the worst of the impact. Based on statistics from plausible free fall
incidents, you are more likely to survive if you’re attached to debris, than a free
fall solo. When free falling from 35,000 ft (10,669 m)
you have enough time to possibly make some very quick decisions on how to mitigate your
impact. However, there are drawbacks from falling
from such a high distance. At higher altitudes, it’s extremely cold,
the temperature at 35,000 ft (10,669 m) is often in excess of -67 F (-55C). A reaction to the cold or rapid change in
temperature as you drop is possible, however there are no reports detailing how individuals
have been affected. Frankly, temperature is the least of your
worries. At 35,000 ft (10,669 m) oxygen is thin; it’s
likely that you will experience hypoxia and spend roughly the first minute of your fall
unconscious. You might stay unconscious for the duration
of your fall, and be spared the last few terrifying moments of your life, but most likely you’ll
come to once you’ve fallen around 2 miles (3.21 km). Of course how fast you’re falling and how
quickly you regain consciousness are tied to several variables that we cannot account
for such as air currents, the trajectory at which you leave the plane, your mass and personal
blood oxygen saturation level. Once you awaken, you’ll have around 2 minutes
left to execute any strategies for survival. The first thing you want to do is calm down. We get it, it’s extremely hard to adopt
a zen like attitude when death is most likely imminent, but take a deep breath and try anyway. Although you’ve regained consciousness,
your body is still feeling the effects of hypoxia. If you panic, it’s really easy to hyperventilate,
slip back into a black out and lose valuable free fall seconds you could be using to mitigate
injury or fatality. You need all your wits about you to focus
on planning your landing; you cannot do that if you’re freaking out. Great, now that you’ve taken a split second
and gotten ahold of yourself, the next thing you want to do is attempt to slow your fall
and gain a few extra seconds of precious freefall time. A good position to create wind resistance
is the classic skydiver’s pose called the ‘box’. To assume, flip onto your stomach and arch
your back, lifting your head and shoulders slightly. Spread your arms and legs equal distance. Bend your arms at the elbow. Also bend your knees at about a 45 degree
angle, leaving your lower legs slightly extended into the wind. Not only will this position help to slow your
descent a little, in skydiving it’s considered a neutral, stable freefall position from which
other maneuvers are performed. From the ‘box’, you can move into the
slow down position: lower your head, turning it to one side, straighten your arms and further
extend your legs, spreading out into an ‘X’. Flatten your torso, point your feet and toes
as much as possible and tense your muscles, deliberately pushing against the air. This position provides the greatest resistance
possible. If you start to wobble or flip, return to
the sky diver’s box posture, before trying the slow fall position again. Now take a quick look around, it’s unlikely,
but you may have a second chance at grabbing ahold of some plane debris to cushion your
fall. If suitable wreckage is falling nearby, you
might want to try to angle yourself towards it so you can grab on. Skydivers form formations before deploying
their parachutes, so it is possible to steer towards and grab ahold of objects while falling. However, maneuvering during skydiving does
take practice, and generally it’s not something you do on your first jump. Remember time is at a premium and it’s better
to get yourself in the best position possible for impact rather than crash land in a poor
position because you were chasing debris. Whether maneuvering to reach debris or aiming
for a landing spot, here are some basic moves for steering. From the box position, to turn yourself left,
deflect more air off your right arm than your left by moving your left arm down and your
right arm up in equal proportion. Imagine an airplane banking–that’s exactly
what you’re doing. To turn right, do the reverse: right arm down,
left arm up. You’ll continue to turn according to your
arm actions until you resume the neutral box position. Another common skydiving move is tracking
or moving horizontally while free falling. For a basic tracking stance, from the box
position straighten your legs and arms. Bring your arms to your sides and rotate them
out slightly, so your palms are facing downwards. Flatten your back, lower your head and curl
your body in just a little. Frankly, you’re not going to have much time
to think about proper skydiving form, so do whatever movement that seems to alter the
direction of the drag force acting on your body to try to produce the desired motion
to guide yourself. Your next step is to look down for a suitable
landing area. It’s best if you can land on or in anything
that offers give such as a tree canopy, haystack or snow drift. Swampland or grass are better than plain ground. Even power lines are preferable to the ground,
because they break your fall. Any ground cover that spreads your impact
over a longer period, or absorbs it in stages, could mean the difference between a couple
of broken bones and severe trauma to internal organs. Try not to land in water, it can be as dangerous
as landing on concrete. Firstly, you have no way of determining depth. Even when the water is deep enough for landing,
once you break the surface of the water, your velocity drops almost instantaneously to zero,
exerting strong g-forces on your body. If you must land in water, try to minimize
impact by assuming a posture that causes a minimum surface area of your body to bear
the brunt of the force. That would be a pencil dive position. Jump feet first with your arms held tightly
to your sides and your feet pressed together and pointed downward; you’re striving to
enter the water in a straight, vertical line. Also clench your muscles, especially your
butt unless you want a painful and damaging forced enema. Among experienced cliff divers injuries such
as broken bones, spinal compression and concussions occur. Even if you survive the dive into water with
only a few broken bones, you may be stunned and slow to respond. Watch out! It’s easy to ingest water and possibly drown. To minimize body impact on landing, many researchers
think the best posture is to assume is one similar to a parachute landing fall. That means landing on the balls of your feet
with legs together and your knees a little bent. Immediately allow your body to crumple slightly
backwards and into a horizontal position while turning towards one side of your body as determined
by dominant directional speed. Basically you’re attempting to distribute
the force of the landing step by step up your torso along five points of body contact with
the ground: feet, calf, thigh, hip/buttock, and side of the back. Also you should tuck your chin and wrap your
arms around your head for protection as you land. Furthermore, relax your body as much as possible,
this allows you to use your body’s natural elasticity to help slow things down over a
greater unit of time. Ultimately you’re sacrificing the long bones
in your legs which can absorb a large amount of impact energy before fracturing for the
good of your torso. No matter how you land, of course, you want
to try to protect your head and neck as much as possible. Landing headfirst almost certainly guarantees
death. If you liked this video then go watch another
one right now! Click on this video or this video. We know you’re going to love either one
so don’t wait, pick one now and watch!

Only registered users can comment.

  1. Yeah, you may be falling thousands of feet to your potential death, but geico only takes you 15 minutes to save 15% or more on car insurance so it's ok

  2. And in this episode of the info graphic show, we throw your favorite lab rat, i mean, our 2nd least important writer out of a plane

  3. Kinda scary that this got recommended to me especially since I’m about to take a 4 hour long flight tomorrow 😐

  4. Nah. In the unlikely event of survival the mega-injuries would almost certainly not be worth living with. Enjoy the view, roll head-down just before impact and see you on the other side.

  5. Guys, c'mon this the kind of videos that get people in trouble, can't you see the abundance of retards around us, someone will try it.
    I can see it already " Infographics pulls a Paul Logan" 😂😂

  6. Just land for water and perform a dive like a diver would, every knows landing in water is a sure way to survive a high fall!

  7. As someone terrified of extreme heights I had a lump in my throat watching this lol. I don’t think I’ll have the wits to do any of those things while falling lol.

  8. The one tweak I would make is to the water landing. A old navy man told me you should straighten your legs but you should also lock your ankles and shape yourself like banana. So when you hit the water the force of the water won't give you the splits and the shape makes you shoot back to the surface.

  9. I liked the animations, however…
    Sorry, I stopped watching since you guys arent using the metric system. So I assume your target audience is mostly US viewers and not global.
    Although I can easily convert it, if need be, its not exactly helpful for the younger audiences who cant.

  10. Those 2 cases in the beginning were ppl that fell through tall trees if i remember correctly. That was the reason they survived.

  11. Those suggestions won't "ACTUALLY" help anyone survive. Here's mine:
    1. Calm down
    2. Enjoy your free fall while your past flashes before your eyes!

  12. Because the chances of survival are so slim, I think I might prefer to just not wake up during the fall. Why go through all that trauma if you're almost certianly going to die anyway?

  13. How ever if you vertical head first into the ground you’ll instantly die with no time to process pain rather than living without a limb or 2 are with life changing injuries or worse like dying in the hospital

  14. I’ve crashed while skiing at a velocity of about 110km/h and one time I was thrown into the air at this speed and haven’t suffered any broken bones or severe trauma so I think it is possible to survive this sort of a free fall at 130km/h

  15. I have a question what if you happen to find a object to slow your fall and right before it hits the ground you jump off of it would you live because you gave some force jumping from said object or are you falling at the same velocity no matter what

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