How to Fall 35,000 Feet — And Survive

January 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog

Popular Mechanics offers some astounding advice that I hope none of us ever has to take into serious consideration:

You have a late night and an early flight. Not long after takeoff, you drift to sleep. Suddenly, you’re wide awake. There’s cold air rushing everywhere, and sound. Intense, horrible sound. Where am I?, you think. Where’s the plane?

You’re 6 miles up. You’re alone. You’re falling.

Things are bad. But now’s the time to focus on the good news. (Yes, it goes beyond surviving the destruction of your aircraft.) Although gravity is against you, another force is working in your favor: time. Believe it or not, you’re better off up here than if you’d slipped from the balcony of your high-rise hotel room after one too many drinks last night.

Or at least you will be. Oxygen is scarce at these heights. By now, hypoxia is starting to set in. You’ll be unconscious soon, and you’ll cannonball at least a mile before waking up again. When that happens, remember what you are about to read. The ground, after all, is your next destination.

Granted, the odds of surviving a 6-mile plummet are extra ordinarily slim, but at this point you’ve got nothing to lose by understanding your situation. There are two ways to fall out of a plane. The first is to free-fall, or drop from the sky with absolutely no protection or means of slowing your descent. The second is to become a wreckage rider, a term coined by Massachusetts-based amateur historian Jim Hamilton, who developed the Free Fall Research Page—an onlinedatabase of nearly every imaginable human plummet.

That classification means you have the advantage of being attached to a chunk of the plane. In 1972, Serbian flight attendant Vesna Vulovic was traveling in a DC-9 over Czechoslovakia when it blew up. She fell 33,000 feet, wedged between her seat, a catering trolley, a section of aircraft and the body of another crew member, landing on—then sliding down—a snowy incline before coming to a stop, severely injured but alive. . . . (continue reading)
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5 Responses to “How to Fall 35,000 Feet — And Survive”
  1. Howard says:

    Personally, I'd be spending a good chunk of the time making an act of contrition and firing off as many Our Fathers and Hail Marys as I could.

  2. Jaystar and alower says:

    I loved the article! I also read the same magazine, and read the article "Can We Trust Robots?"

  3. Thursday says:

    the final season of Lost starts in 2 days. maybe this is how they will explain how they all survived the plane crash, or.. maybe not.

  4. sewmelody says:

    Hilarious! And yet, I feel a strange urge to print out copies and distribute them to everyone I know…

  5. Dawn says:

    So so funny! In a very weird way. My son is a popular mechanics fan and was just reading this article to me today. What a co-inky dink!

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