Aviation Safety:

Are airline accidents survivable?
One of the biggest myths associated with flying relates to accident survivability namely, if you crash you're dead. In fact, survivability in aircraft accidents is high, around 70 per cent.

Interestingly, 71 per cent of people who die in survivable crashes do so after the aircraft comes to a complete stop. In many cases this is because they were unprepared for the crash. Below you will find information that can help increase your chances of surviving an aircraft crash. We have also provided a number of tips to make your flying, in general more enjoyable:


Strengthen your immune system
Despite the best efforts of most airlines, flying can be stressful. This is often due to the many extra activities associated with flying, such as airport parking, security, immigration, and customs, to name only a few. Therefore, it is advisable to be in the best possible physical and mental state prior to your journey.

Always eat good food and make time to exercise before your flight. This means plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and fewer high-sugar items, such as lollies.

Once on board the aircraft, travelling requires little effort. It is all the activities that precede the actual flight that can be physically exhausting. Having a good night’s sleep before the flight puts you in a good position to deal with all these events.

You may have heard, or been told, that preparation is the key to success. When flying, this means many things: well before you travel (if possible) write lists of all the documents you need (visas, passports, copy of itinerary), as well as the items you want to pack. You should also pack your bag the day before you fly. Don’t forget to give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport. Remember that you may have to pass through security, go through customs, and then walk to the correct terminal and gate.

On the Aircraft:

Where should I sit?
Seat location is not as important as knowing where the emergency exits are located, where your lifejacket is stored, or how to release your seatbelt. That said, only able and willing passengers should agree to be seated in emergency exit rows. Remember that if you choose to sit in an emergency exit row, you must be willing and able to operate the exit door in an emergency, if directed by a cabin attendant.

Safety briefing: Heard one, heard them all, right?

The pre-flight safety briefing is provided to all passengers prior to a commercial flight. This safety briefing, despite following a standard format, contains information specific to aircraft type, which means that the content will vary between aircraft. Don’t take our word for it, test it yourself. Listen for the differences. Pay particular attention to the location of the emergency exits, the type of seatbelts, and where the lifejackets, (and even the life rafts) are stored.

Not a fashion show
Despite being one of the safest modes of transport, when a plane is damaged in an accident, there are sure to be broken pieces of metal, glass and other sharp objects. This is often in addition to a range of flammable liquids such as fuel, oil and hydraulic fluids.

To help protect against exposure to these hazards, you should always wear tight-weave natural fibre fabrics, which have the least tendency to burn. Never wear synthetic nylon fabrics, as they will melt and adhere to your skin.

Cover as much of your body as possible to prevent your skin from coming into contact with fire. This means jeans and cotton or wool long-sleeve shirts or jumpers. Don’t forget to wear enclosed footwear such as leather boots/shoes. High heels should be avoided, but if worn must be taken off prior to using an escape slide.

Read the safety card

Always familiarise yourself with the type of aircraft you are on. The best way to do this is by reading the safety card. Pay particular attention to where the emergency exits are located, the type of seatbelt (lift or push), the location of your lifejacket, and whether there are additional floatation devices on board.

Seat not sheep counting

A good safety practice is to count the number of rows of seats between your row and an emergency exit. Remember that the closest emergency exit may be behind you, so count the rows in both directions. While all aircraft have emergency in-cabin lighting that illuminates the way to the emergency exits when required, it might fail, so knowing how many seats you need to pass on your way out could save valuable time.

Click or clack different sounds, different seatbelts
Not all seatbelts are the same. There are various styles on commercial aircraft. The most common is the buckle-style belt, where you need to lift the buckle to open the seatbelt. What you may not know is that the angle to which you need to lift the buckle varies between aircraft. Some buckles release at approximately 40 degrees, some at approximately 60 degrees and others release when the buckle is at 90 degrees to the latch.

Other aircraft have push button-style seatbelts like those commonly found in motor vehicles.

Familiarise yourself with your seatbelt so you can release it straight away if you need to evacuate the aircraft in a hurry.

Fasten your seatbelt
On the road, seatbelts save lives. In aviation they do the same, with the added advantage of preventing injuries in unexpected turbulence. Therefore, you should always have your seatbelt fastened, irrespective of whether the seatbelt light is illuminated or not. Remember that while we cannot predict when an aircraft will experience clear air turbulence, we can predict that if it does and you are not wearing your seatbelt, injury is almost guaranteed.

Safety specialist, more commonly referred to as a flight attendant
Flight attendants' primary role is passenger safety. In an emergency, they will provide clear and concise instructions. For your safety and that of other passengers, strictly follow all these instructions. Flight attendants train for emergencies, so rest assured that if you follow their instructions your chances of surviving an aircraft crash increase dramatically.

Anti-bacterial wipes
Did you know that most aircraft turn around in about 30 minutes? This means: empty the aircraft of all passengers; refuel; (possibly) change crew; replenish food; load new passengers and, oh yes, this also involves cleaning the entire inside of the aircraft. This last item should concern you. How long does it take you to clean your house? What about one bedroom? What about one small bathroom? Let’s be honest; tray tables, arm rests, in-flight entertainment controls are possibly cleaned once a day, if they are lucky. Therefore, we highly recommend that, once seated, you wipe all these surfaces down with your anti-bacterial wipes.

Personal electronic devices
Personal electronic devices (PEDs) abound – mobile telephones, shavers, mp3 players, electronic tablets, computers, noise-cancelling headphones, and pace makers, to name just a few.

On most aircraft there are restrictions on PEDs, and they are usually banned during take-off and landing because they have the potential to interfere with navigation and communication equipment (obviously not some PEDs such as pace makers). Follow the advice of the airline and, if asked, ensure your device is either switched off or in flight mode.

Lifejackets are an essential piece of safety equipment and you should know precisely where yours is located on the aircraft. Watch the pre-flight safety briefing carefully to learn how your lifejacket should be fitted. It is important to note that not all life vests are the same. Some are fastened with straps and others with a buckle. If you have to put your lifejacket on during an emergency, never inflate it in the aircraft.

Emergency slides,
No baggage and no high heels
Emergency slides help you to escape quickly from an aircraft during an emergency. If you are asked to use a slide, do not be afraid to jump out onto the slide so that you land about a third of the way down it. Never take any baggage with you during an emergency and always take high heels off before using an emergency slide.

If it fits into my bag, I can take it as hand luggage, right?
No. There are strict weight and size limits for carry on baggage. Weight is the most important because overhead storage areas all have maximum load limits and, in an emergency, having a heavy item fall on your head is not going to do you any good at all. There are also many items that should not be carried onto aircraft. Apart from the obvious ones, such as flammable liquids and explosives, certain batteries, aerosol cans, and even knitting needles, are prohibited. A good rule to adhere to: if there is any doubt, ask the airline for clarification, because ignorance is not an excuse under the law, and penalties for carrying prohibited items onto aircraft can be severe.

Social responsibility
Flying is a basically a means of transport. For most people, this involves flying on a commercial aircraft with other passengers. Like any communal space, you need to mindful of others within it. If you are sick, you should delay your travel. Apart from restricting the spread of any germs you may be carrying, there is no requirement for airlines to have medically trained professionals on board so, if your illness worsens, you could be hours away from medical help.

While alcohol is commonly served on aircraft and, depending on the airline and route you are flying, may even be free, you should limit your intake. It is much wiser to drink water to counter the dehydrating effects of pressurisation.

Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate
Before any aircraft is certified safe to carry passengers, its operators must demonstrate that they can safely evacuate all passengers under emergency conditions i.e. in less than 90 seconds, at night, with half the exits blocked.

Unfortunately, in an evacuation, many people forget that their personal possessions are less important than their safety, and are determined to take hand luggage with them. Do not take hand luggage when evacuating an aircraft. It will only put your life, and potentially other passengers’ lives, at risk.

In-flight yoga
Not quite, but it is sensible to perform some type of exercise while on a flight, especially if it is a long one. Most airlines have recommended stretching or light exercise instructions in their in-flight magazines. What do you have to lose, except some fat? You will also be reducing your risk of deep-vein thrombosis (DVT).

Rubbish bin or seat pockets?
Not everyone has the same hygiene standards as you. Items found in seat pockets include used nappies, vomit bags and tissues. Therefore, a word of caution: keep things in your bag, not the seat pocket.

Smoke hoods
Smoke inhalation, not fire, is the largest cause of death for people who survive the initial impact, so carrying a smoke hood in your carry-on bag can buy you the valuable time needed to evacuate an aircraft in the event of a fire.

Security Tips:

Register on this Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website, check any advisory warnings, and read useful background information.

Understanding your destination’s cultural sensitivities and being aware of its laws are essential. Using ignorance as a defence will not work.


Some countries insist on visitors carrying their actual passport for identification purposes. It is also recommended that you carry a copy of your passport in case something unexpected occurs. You should also leave a photocopy of your passport, insurance, financial information and other documents with a family member or friend, in case the originals are lost or stolen.

This may be stating the obvious, but never agree to carry any item/s for anyone else. Only write your last name, contact phone number and your city/country of origin on baggage tags, not your full address. Keep your bags locked at all times, even your carry-on bags, because your eyes won’t be glued to the overhead lockers throughout the flight. Keep your luggage close to you at all times (including when you check in at a hotel), and keep an eye on it at all times. Report any unattended items to security and stay away from unattended bags.

In the hotel
Ensure that your room number remains confidential. Do not write it on the sleeve that comes with the access card. If you lose it, someone will know where to pay you an unwelcome visit. Never open the door to anyone without asking who they are and the purpose of their visit. If they claim to be a staff member, insist that ID is provided (either under the door or held up against the peep hole), then call reception to verify. There is no rush, so do not be forced to respond before you are satisfied with their story.

Lock all access points to your room. Leave the Do Not Disturb sign on your door when you leave the room it's best to avoid housekeeping services where possible. Otherwise, either be there when housekeeping attend, or lock everything (including toiletries) up in your absence. Know where your emergency exits are! If you leave it until there is a crisis, chances are that panic (and lack of electricity or thick smoke) will prevent you from reading the placard behind your door and/or disorient you at some point.
For that reason, never unpack your luggage. Only take out what you need for the day. Otherwise, in an emergency, chances are you'll leave something valuable behind, or waste precious time trying to repack. Always think I need to be able to walk out of here within 90 seconds and never come back (buildings could be destroyed or condemned, so there may be no chance of return).
Secure all valuable possessions or ideally, do not have anything too valuable. Computers, money and passports should be locked it in the room safe or left with reception (with a receipt to acknowledge that they have it). Before entering a lift, consider who is about to enter with you. Stay at the controls and if you feel at all concerned about someone in the lift with you, go back down to reception after all, you are entitled to change your mind and decide to duck out to grab something.

Financial considerations
Inform your financial institution of your travel plans. If they think fraudulent activity is occurring, they may suspend your card, which could make life difficult for you. For obvious reasons, take a credit card with a low limit. Ask your bank for a list of legitimate overseas ATMs. Ones at banks are best, with well-lit areas such as shopping centres a reasonable alternative. Cover the keypad when entering your PIN and never share it, or write it down. Do not allow your card to be taken from your sight including in restaurants. Take it to the cashier. Cards can be scanned or ‘skimmed and duplicated all too easily. Keep all receipts and reconcile them against your account.

If your card is lost or stolen, contact your bank immediately (keep their emergency phone numbers in your phone and written down, just in case). Do not carry all your money in one place, or in large bills. Some intrepid travellers go as far as carrying decoy wallets (with minimal cash) to hand over in case they are accosted. Avoid carrying too much cash or looking too flash.

Do not leave your drink unattended for any reason. This may be completely overzealous, but do not even leave it with a spouse or close friend. Their attention could waver, or be intentionally diverted. Your drink, your responsibility. Drink it first, or be prepared to order a new drink when you come back from the bathroom. Do not accept drinks from admirers. If you notice any odd tastes or smells tell someone immediately. Some bartenders are guilty of spiking drinks themselves. If you think by watching them intently you could spot them in the act, think again. Drinks can be pre-spiked, or inconspicuous additions such as ice, cherries, or even the straw in your cocktail, could be laced.

The best way to avoid being spiked? Go out with a responsible group of friends. You will be a tougher target that way, and in case you do fall prey, at least you will be looked after. Even if you abstain from alcohol, soft drinks, juices, and soups are just as easily contaminated. Drink spiking does not only equate with bars and alcohol.

IT considerations
Password-protect all devices. Lock them in your luggage or room safe (if possible). There is always a chance you will forget to clear the room safe before you leave, so pop in something you cannot check out without e.g. keys, one shoe, as a surefire prompt.

Do not accept IT gifts of any type as the disc, USB device etc could be infected with a virus.
Do not use internet kiosks or cafes for anything personal especially email and banking. When using free Wi-Fi be aware that people with the right know how can intercept the transmission.

Safe flying
Aviation is one of the safest forms of travel. Adhering to these safety tips increases your chance of survival, in the unlikely event that you experience an emergency or incident during your travels.

Useful links
CASA - Advice for Air Travellers

Images source: Travel Careers and Training Auckland, NZ.