Most plane crashes are survivable; 96-percent of people survive, to be exact. That’s the message from airline safety expert William McGee, who wrote the book Attention All Passengers. We were reminded of that fact recently after the San Francisco Asiana Airlines crash. And McGee says we can increase our odds of walking away from a crash with smart planning and awareness.

  • For example: Safety starts with where you SIT. Study after study shows that people who sit within five rows of an exit are the most likely to survive a crash. Because if the plane catches on fire or goes underwater, you’ll need to escape as quickly as possible. Also seats in the rear of the plane tend to be safer because in a nose-first crash; people sitting in the first seven rows usually bear the brunt of the impact.

  • Another plane crash survival tip: Remember the “plus three, minus eight” rule, which refers to the fact that most crashes occur within three minutes of takeoff or eight minutes of landing. Airline expert McGee says instead of kicking off your shoes, reading, or trying to sleep during those 11 minutes, stay alert in case there’s an emergency. 

  • Then, if you KNOW the plane’s about to crash, brace yourself. Meaning, lean forward with your head tucked down. Because research shows that loose objects in the cabin tend to become missiles in a crash, which can kill anyone sitting upright. 

  • Also wear the right clothes when you fly. Avoid highly flammable polyesters and pantyhose. Go for natural fibers like cotton and wool. 

  • And one more thing: Stay buckled up. McGee says think about the video of that Asiana crash in San Francisco. When the plane slammed against the runway, it spun around and burst into flames. Imagine trying to stay seated without a seat belt, or hold a kid in your lap, while that happened! 

Statistics from MIT show that riding on a commercial airplane today has about the same amount of risk as riding on an escalator. But even if you are in a crash, you’ll have a much better chance of surviving if you pay attention and think about how you might react should the worst happen.