Newswise — "Brace! Brace!" In some in-flight emergencies, that is all the pilot has time to say. And now, the good news " in two parts:
1. Plane crashes are rare. Your chances of being involved in one are about one in 11 million. Your chances of being killed in an automobile accident are one in 5,000. Statistically, you are at more risk while driving to the airport than once you board the airplane. Remember: More than 50,000 people are killed on the highways every year. Also more deadly, statistically, than air travel: Insect stings, slipping on ice or snow, choking on food, falling down stairs, off a ladder, or even out of bed.
2. Most people survive aircraft emergency landings; 95.7 percent, says the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. What can you do to maximize your chances of survival in an emergency landing, aside from boarding only flights piloted by Chesley Sullenberger?
"Keep your cool, trust your crew, and follow directions," advises Captain Stephen R. Speed, director of the airway science program at Delaware State University in Dover, Del. THE PILOT'S ROLE IN AN EMERGENCY
"Once a pilot trainee, or pilot under instruction (PUI), has a strong grasp of normal procedures, the instructor pilot will introduce emergency procedures," says Captain Speed. "Procedures are drilled repeatedly until the PUI executes them to the instructor's satisfaction. The training scenarios are more complicated and more difficult than most pilots will ever experience during a non-training flight. "If the PUI can execute the correct procedures and make appropriate decisions under the pressure of training and practical exams (flight checks), he or she should be able to handle actual emergencies.
"Like every flight program I have been associated with, the first three priorities of the Delaware State program are safety, safety, and safety," Captain Speed says. PASSENGER'S ROLE
Various studies about the safest section of an aircraft during an emergency landing conflict with each other. This much is certain advice:"¢ Count the number of rows to the nearest exit so you can find it in a dark or smoke-filled cabin. "¢ Obey instructions from the flight crew and cabin crew. The cabin crew and those on the ground have been drilled and prepared for emergencies as rigorously as the pilot and co-pilot."¢ The safest "Brace!" position is with your head pressed against the seat in front of you, protected by your arms, and your feet pulled back so that your lower legs are pressed against your seat.
Captain Speed directs the Delaware State U. aviation program, which awards bachelor's degrees in airway science systems for professional pilots and airway science management for air traffic controllers, FAA career tracks, and airport administration. Graduates with an airway science systems major complete FAA requirements for private pilot, instrument flight, commercial and multi-engine, and certified pilot instructor ratings. They prepare for careers in the military and business and commercial air transport.
Delaware State is the only historically black college or university (HBCU) to offer this kind of training on its own fleet of aircraft. The university owns and operates 10 single-engine and twin-engine aircraft.
Captain Speed has served 24 years as an officer in the U.S. Navy, with more than 19 years flying Navy aircraft. He is currently a captain in the U.S. Navy Reserve, serving in the Individual Ready Reserve. He has been a reserve officer since 1994 and served as a full-time active-duty officer from 1987-1994.