Monday, June 20th, 2011

How To Not Die In A Plane Crash

1. First of all, don’t even think about getting on an airplane! What is wrong with you? What are you, some kind of daredevil??

2. When you must buy plane tickets because someone you love is having some bullshit wedding, think carefully about your seat choice. You might think you want to be near an emergency exit so that you can get on the chute first. But what if the emergency exit door blows off mid-flight? You’d be the first to get sucked out. Don’t say, “I’ll bring a parachute!” You can’t—some people have asked about that, and it’s not allowed. You also don’t want to be too near the middle, because if the plane snaps in half, you’ll end up hanging off the edge like Mufasa, and we all know how that ends.

3. One week before your flight, look up safety statistics and fearful flying tips. A good choice is this one, by the adorably named Captain Stacey Chance. Learn so many things! For instance, did you know that no plane has been shaken out of the sky by turbulence? (Yet?) And that you are more likely to die in almost ANY other way than in a plane crash? (Haha, that doesn’t help.)

4. Two days before the flight, start crying. It helps to worry literally as much as humanly possible, because everybody knows that worrying about something reduces the likelihood that it will happen.

5. Take a Xanax an hour before the flight. This doesn’t help that much, but it weakens your survival instincts. Sometimes it also makes your arms feel like they’re going to fall off, which is just as well, because you might not have any of your body parts pretty soon.

6. When you’re sitting at the terminal, look out the window for clouds. Do some of them look like the kind of clouds that planes could get lost in? If so, call your dad. “Dad, there are weird-looking clouds outside.” “What am I supposed to do about this?” “I’m just letting you know. It’s not too good out there. Not…too…good.”

7. Monitor the departure time. If your flight is delayed, keep in mind that it’s probably because the pilot and crew know that the airplane is full of cracks, and they’re buying time. If your flight is on time: well, that’s weird. It’s almost suspiciously on time.

8. Board the plane. Trace a bunch of religious symbolism on the outside of the plane with your finger as you walk through the door. Instant God-force-shield. Draw a little Yoda too, just to be safe. If you have time, a Dumbledore.

9. Try to make eye contact with the captain. Give him or her a meaningful look when he or she says, “Welcome aboard.” It should be friendly, but stern, but respectful, but threatening. Show that you’re terrified, but also really strong and normal.

10. Take your seat. Watch everyone else get on board. Does anybody look like bad luck? Does anyone look like they have a face that you might see in a newspaper clipping about a plane crash? I can’t describe it. You just know. But also, it’s almost everyone.

11. Look for babies. This is important because a) probably nothing can happen to babies. And b) they’ll be the first to know that something is wrong. They’re like cats.

12. When you’re taking off, think of that part in Say Anything where Diane Court and her hat are really scared, and Lloyd Dobler says most plane crashes happen before the seat belt sign goes off. This would be helpful if taking off weren’t actually taking thirty hours. What the hell kind of plane is this anyway? Some joke plane that takes off forever?

13. Clutch the armrests with all your strength for 1.5-2 hours. If your plane starts to explode a little bit, the adhesion of your fists to your plastic armrests will keep you from dying, probably.

14. Don’t listen to music. Don’t read. Don’t think of anything happy. Think only of your death and your funeral. You would think it would be nice to imagine all your loved ones mourning you and talking about how great you were, but it’s not. If you start to accidentally get a little smug thinking about your exes crying over your death, stop it. You’re practically asking to get killed now.

15. When the flight attendant comes by with the drink cart, ask her if she thinks you guys could “pull over a little early.” She laughs, then looks at your face, then frowns. She hands you your drink. You wish she’d at least give you a wings pin, but she doesn’t.

16. Don’t talk to your seatmate, because he or she might be afraid of flying too. Then you’ll have a fear-off and the plane will commit suicide from listening to the two of you.

17. Don’t go to the bathroom. Getting out of your chair might set the plane’s balance off. Give other people who do get up dirty looks. Ask God to forgive them for being such terrible human beings.

18. If there is turbulence, try not to cry. Cry a little bit, though. Think of good old Captain Stacey Chance. Where is he now? Where is Stacey Chance when you need him?? Goddammit, Stacey Chance.

19. When the captain announces that you’re about to begin your descent, let out one tiny exhalation. (Were you not holding your breath the whole time?? WTF?) Don’t be too relieved though. Sometimes when planes try to land they can’t stop and then they just burst into flames.

20. Get the hell off the plane as soon as you can. Be happier to be in an airport than you’ve ever been in your life. Bless this terminal! Bless this Subway and this Cinnabon! Ne’er have you seen such beauty on this Earth! Oh, youth! Oh, life! Everything is so great when you’re on the ground. Nothing bad ever happens down here.

Katie Heaney lives in Minneapolis and plans to invest her future millions in teleporter technology. Or Portkeys.

67 Comments / Post A Comment

whizz_dumb (#10,650)

I'm trying to come up with something clever for this but you pretty much covered it. #8 is my thing, I do that.

mrschem (#1,757)

@whizzard Mine is #11 but replace 'babies' with 'Hassidim.'
'Hassidem but I dont beleedem!' – Paulie Gaultieri

C_Webb (#855)

I give myself about a 50/50 chance when I get on a plane, so this was brilliant. But you forgot the part about figuring out who will play you and all the people sitting around you in the Lifetime Movie about the inevitable crash.

ejcsanfran (#489)

@C_Webb: Does this mean that if Meredith Baxter is on your plane, you're guaranteed not to crash so she can star as the chief flight attendant on the plane that is going to crash? Or is it a harbinger of your own death?

C_Webb (#855)

@ejcsanfran I would consider Meredith Baxter (Birney) a bad sign*, but it would probably result in more press for our demise.

*I consider everything bad signs.

Paul B@twitter (#13,135)

If you're more frightened of air travel than car travel you're doing the wrong thing, but this is an irrational fear and there's no way around it. Except following through Step 4, replacing Step 5 with two dramamine (sold legally and cheaply in the airport in case you forgot or couldn't find Xanax.) Then somewhere in between Step 8 and Step 20 just wake up on a grounded plane at your destination and thank whomever for receiving your signs and salutations previously.

tee (#16,308)

@Paul B@twitter YOU GET THINGS

DMcK (#5,027)

Slightly off-topic, but Airplane Safety Procedures is one of my all-time favorite comic-book genres, and that's a GREAT example of the form right up there. Look at the smug confidence in panel #7! The coyly sexy little stance in #8!

barnhouse (#1,326)

I used to have it so bad, but the fear went mysteriously away all by itself years ago. One thing that helps is not to drink alcohol on the plane, because it gets rid of your inhibitions and you NEED inhibitions on an airplane. (Acupuncture is also said to cure the fear!! This works for my friend Randy.)

C_Webb (#855)

@barnhouse I had started to get over it, but 9/11 set me back a notch.

djbsquared (#4,729)

@barnhouse Your friend's accupuncturist must have very steady hands. Does he have to buy a full row of seats to have room for the table?

barnhouse (#1,326)

@djbsquared haha no, I think you have to go a week before, and then then day before? He swears by it, and he was scared worse than anyone I've ever met.

forrealz (#1,530)

This seems like a good place to ask if there's anything better than xanax for this particular phobia. Guess not, since everyone seems to be taking it for FOF. . . but anyone used something else? Klonopin, valium?

scroll_lock (#4,122)

@forrealz – Klonopin FTW, it goes with any outfit and doesn't gyp you like Xanax with a quick peak, then fade away. It's there for the long haul- down to the ground in a fireball.

BoHan (#29)

@scroll_lock Seconded. And the generic is so cheap and just as good of a high.

scroll_lock (#4,122)

@BoHan- The generic's like a buck or two per bottle!

HiredGoons (#603)

Don't forget to dwell on breathing recirculated air with people just coming from God-knows-where and breathing out Bubonic Plague between their Big Red and Pall Malls.

kneetoe (#1,881)

@HiredGoons Pall Malls!!!

mrschem (#1,757)

@kneetoe My great grandma smoked those. We buried her with a pack. Bless her.

Tuna Surprise (#573)

2a. While booking your ticket, whatever you do, don't book a seat on an aircraft made by the following manufacturers:

McDonnell Douglas

This list is getting long. Just book a flight on a Boeing or Airbus. Except don't book on the Airbus A380 or Boeing Dreamliner until each has had a major crash and whatever 'ticking time bomb' problem that caused the crash has been fixed.

HiredGoons (#603)

@Tuna Surprise: are we related?

Tuna Surprise (#573)

@HiredGoons – *come fly with me.

Eeek! I posted this list before I saw this gem of a news item.
If you need to go to Russia, just walk.

Bittersweet (#765)

@Tuna Surprise: I flew Aeroflot on a Tupolev from London to Moscow in June 1989. The pilot cut the freaking engines 20 feet off the runway and we hit the ground with a huge thud that jarred everyone's teeth loose. You can imagine how relieved I was to fly British Airways on the return trip.

Pandemic Endemic (#3,825)

@Tuna Surprise My grandpa worked for Boeing for almost 40 years and he refused to fly anywhere.


oldtaku (#9,009)

Stage 19 is not the time to be relieved! Up at 30000 ft flying level or stopped on the ground is when you're safest. Taking off or landing is fireball time.

FloppyBaby (#14,176)

Don't forget to say your flight number out loud a few dozen times in the days leading up to your trip to see if it sounds like a plane crash you'd hear about on the news. "United Airlines Flight 663" and you might as well make your own funeral playlist. Any really short numbers or numbers that have 2 of the same digits are bad signs.

HiredGoons (#603)

@FloppyBaby: totally 100% scientific and completely truth.

Tuna Surprise (#573)

@FloppyBaby: Also look around at your fellow passengers to see if there's a good front page story involved. My worst flight ever was a short puddle jumper on a 30 seater where about 25 of the seats were filled with members of an extended family. Front page of NYTimes the next day could have read:


*Also dead two lawyers nobody cares about en route to boring business meeting

KTHeaney (#14,171)

@FloppyBaby This is SUCH A GOOD ONE!!! I totally forgot I do this literally every time, until right now.

FloppyBaby (#14,176)

@KTHeaney Awwwwww thx gurl!

zidaane (#373)

@Tuna Surprise I was on a flight with an entire Italian soccer team from New York once. You never want to fly with a team ever. Thankfully we did not fly near any mountains as those are team magnets.

They drank everything on the plane and were merciless to the two females flying.

KTHeaney (#14,171)

@zidaane "Thankfully we did not fly near any mountains as those are team magnets." : perfect.

laurel (#4,035)

"Show that you’re terrified, but also really strong and normal."

I'm sorry, what were we talking about?

HiredGoons (#603)

@spiralbetty: I know, this was so good.

laurel (#4,035)

@HiredGoons: Could be about flying… or dating!

hockeymom (#143)

Try and book yourself on a flight where someone has a little dog in a purse.
Have you ever read a story about a plane crash where a dog in a purse died?

City_Dater (#2,500)


I always look for the little dog in a bag when boarding a flight for this very reason. Besides, I figure if anything starts to go wrong the dog will pull a Lassie and start howling to alert us all.

It used to help me to know no plane had ever been shaken out of the air by turbulence. Then this happened…

While the frozen pitot tubes and a curious reaction to a stall (why did the pilots point the nose up?) were the immediate precipitating events there's no doubt the weather/turbulence were the start of the problems. The thought of falling 39k feet and being aware of it is something that's hard for me to get over.

Oh, no, I think they ruled out turbulence really well, based on the new-ish black box stuff? It was speed up, slow down, speed up, stall basically? PITOTS!!!

KTHeaney (#14,171)

@Choire Sicha I am really glad you said this because I was going to have to spend the rest of the day researching this/panicking.

zidaane (#373)

@Choire Sicha This part- a warning message NAV ADR DISAGREE indicated that there was a disagreement between the independent air data systems (more precisely: that after one of the three independent systems had been diagnosed as faulty and excluded from consideration, the two remaining systems disagreed).

This is exactly how the space shuttle works except it has like 6 systems. What happens is, if the one (main) system is bad the back-ups need to match or it goes into a loop waiting for them to agree util you fall out of the sky.

For the truly nerdy this is a great article on the really old software they use to fly shuttles and includes an example were the same problem caused a loop in simulated training. I doubt planes are that different.

theharpoon (#10,705)

@zidaane So basically we need pilots to be programmers too now? Everybody has to be programmers. Goddammit.

EggsErroneous (#10,609)

"Look for babies…They're like cats."

I will be smiling about this all day.

I kick ass on airplanes. I count the number of seats between myself and the emergency exits so I can still find them in a smoke-filled cabin. I study how to open them – some you push out, some you have to bring in and place on the seats. Some have the slip-n-slides and some don't. I've also read the Worst Case Scenario Handbook for good measure.

I doubt I'll ever be in a plane crash, but if I am, I'll eagerly prove my survival skills to the clueless masses burying their noses in the Sky Mall during the safety demonstration and enjoying the $7 cocktails.

You want me on your plane. Unless I fall asleep listening to my audio book. Then you're on your own.

stephen (#14,204)

You guys should all come here to Australia and then you can fly Qantas all the time. Never crashed (a jet).

melis (#1,854)

Come to Prison Island? Where everything besides airplanes will kill us? Not likely, bub.

theharpoon (#10,705)

@stephen What did they crash? A balloon?

stephen (#14,204)

@theharpoon They had some crashes with really old school propeller planes and flying boats. Mostly during WW2 when they were working for the military.

@melis Clearly the worst part about dying in a plane crash is knowing it's coming. Here, whether you get eaten by a shark or a drop bear crushes your skull as you sleep, you won't have to live with the worry.

sevanetta (#14,222)

@stephen Another Australian! whereabouts are you based?

Also, I agree. Being Australian means that you know anything could kill you anytime, anywhere, so then you feel free to stop worrying about it.

dikwad (#2,308)

People who say that air travel is safer than car travel fail to consider that cars don't generally fall from the sky 30,000 feet and land in a hellish fireball.

SeanP (#4,058)

@dikwad No, but you're just as dead from a head-on car crash, rollover, impact with a light pole, or whatever… and it's a lot more likely to actually happen.

FloppyBaby (#14,176)

@dikwad EXACTLY.

Fearlessleeder (#2,618)

I heard a weird statistic that most planes that do crash are filled at less then capacity or less than half. The weird thing was those flights had record last minute cancellations or no shows before take off. When the people who didn't fly were asked why they changed their plans at last minute, most either said that they came down with some temporary sickness that didn't allow them to fly or that they just had a weird moment of jitters that made them feel like maybe they shouldn't get on the plane that day. Most of them were frequent flyers too. So I guess if you wanted to avoid a crash check how many cancellations there are before the flight, because maybe something is urging those people not to board that plane for a reason.

MarissaE (#14,212)

Brilliant! Also, remember that if someone at the terminal seems distraught because this flight is too full and this is the only flight they could possibly take, GIVE THEM YOUR SEAT, FOR GOD'S SAKE. It has been time-tested that if you give up your seat to someone who urgently needs it, you will be the one better off, while that flight will probably crash.

Parleyview (#7,337)


gotta be added to the dictionary.

Paul B@twitter (#13,135)


Ronit (#1,557)

I'm a total #13 and #14

Erik Stafford (#14,258)

13. Clutch the armrests with all your strength for 1.5-2 hours. If your plane starts to explode a little bit, the adhesion of your fists to your plastic armrests will keep you from dying, probably.

14. Don’t listen to music. Don’t read. Don’t think of anything happy. Think only of your death and your funeral. You would think it would be nice to imagine all your loved ones mourning you and talking about how great you were, but it’s not. If you start to accidentally get a little smug thinking about your exes crying over your death, stop it. You’re practically asking to get killed now.

This could really help!.

Hello funny girl ;) I was wondering if I could take your words to video with my characters? I'd hate to break laws or hearts by stealing work but I feel when brilliancy shines at this magnitude, even the brain dead visualists should be entertained. So whaddya say? Can I? Huh huh? Oh, you probably have no idea the magnitude of greatness that I hold…well, I was thinkin that my character "sara" might do your words justice. Or maybe a different character for each rule? Sky's the limit if you say so…you can see my work & "Sara"…here…
Either way, you rock…On the ground!

One you forgot. Buy flight insurance. The universe almost always messes with you if you think you'll outsmart it and so it purposefully won't crash. Unless of course you're doing this to outsmart it, and then … hmmm, not sure now.

baixar musicas (#14,309)

The pilot cut the freaking engines 20 feet off the runway and we hit the ground with a huge thud that jarred everyone's teeth loose.

Too far from my children or I wouldn't get on a plane. Hate airports too. Anyway, thanks for the laugh. // Jean Clelland-Morin

ArtisDead (#12,792)

IMO, only idiots or extreme skateboarder types fly to places surrounded by large mountains. How much brain power does it take to figure out that the chances of crashing into sharp jagged rocks increase algorhythmically when those rocks are reaching up to get you?!

Think about it! And next time you're going to LA or Hong Kong, DRIVE OR TAKE THE TRAIN!

PS. Also avoid flying to places with more than 3 or 4 tall buildings (ie. buildings over 30 stories) for obvious and similar reasons. Southern cities are usually safe in this respect, but watch out for a few sneaky (and you would think irrelevant) ones where you wouldn't imagine there could be anything taller than a cotton warehouse or Piggly Wiggly, like Mobile or Little Rock. Chattanooga would be safe if it weren't for fucking Ruby Falls looming all over the place like a giant plane-swatter!

#21 Think about your flight back.

Post a Comment