The Plus Three, Minus Eight Rule Could Help You Survive A Plane Crash

The Plus Three, Minus Eight Rule Could Help You Survive A Plane Crash

Do you tune out as soon as you get on the plane or it’s about to land? That’s probably not a good idea, according to research on when most accidents happen. The “plus three, minus eight” rule can help you stay alert when you fly.

Photo by David Watts1978

In an article on ABC News, Ben Sherwood, author of “The Survivors Club — The Secrets and Science That Could Save Your Life” (and president of ABC News) says that 80 per cent of all plane crashes happen within the first three minutes of takeoff or in the eight minutes before landing. These are the times you’ll want to stay alert just in case. Leave your shoes on and save the reading for later.

To be clear, we don’t want anyone to become paranoid about air travel. Statistically speaking, flying is still one of the safest ways to travel (and even if there is a crash, like the one that happened this weekend at San Francisco International Airport, the vast majority of travellers survive). The more you know, though, and the better prepared you are (for any crisis), the higher your chances of staying calm and safe.

Hit up the link below for more tips of plane crash survival, including tips on where to sit if you’re really concerned (hint: it’s not first class).

Surviving a Plane Crash: Where You Sit Could Be The Difference Between Life and Death [ABC News]


  • From experience, i think the fear in flying is not that its a mechanical object flying at hundreds of k’s through the air a few thousand feet above the ground… but rather the fact I, as the passenger, have absolutely no control as to whether the plane travels safely or crashes en-route.

    I generally feel (being the keyword here) safer in a car knowing i can control its movements and the onus of crashing or surviving my daily commute is all on me… as opposed to being statistically safer in a flying magical school bus.

    • This logic does not make sense to me. I understand you have control of the vehicle you are in and that makes you feel safer, but feeling safer in what is commonly known to be a less safe environment is irrational.

      Essentially you say that you don’t trust the two thoroughly trained pilots because you have no control over the plane. Yet you will drive in a car on the road with hundreds of thousands of other people, whom among other things, may or may not have driver training (or even a license), could be intoxicated, drowsy, or simply not paying enough attention. You have no control over any of these vehicle’s either, so what would possess you to feel safer in an environment when there are so many more variables beyond your control?

      The probability of a person crashing into you on the road when it wasn’t your fault, is far higher then being in a plane and crashing. If this is the reason people some people are scared of flying then it simply doesn’t make sense to me. I suppose that’s why people call it an irrational fear, but I fail to see how it is not overcome by applying some common knowledge to the situation.

      • Actually, I do not trust the so called “trained professional pilots” sitting up the front of a commercial airliner, there are exceptions of course, I know of some airline pilots who are skilled. Ok, this is a long one.

        Unfortunately there are many who are not, many airline pilots who do not regularly hand fly aircraft, either because they are not confident enough to do so, or are told by management to always let the computers fly the plane because it costs to much money to hand fly the plane (the computers are more efficient at flying the plane). So often when pilots are forced to hand fly the plane, they have not had enough experience in actually flying a plane, and accidents result.

        There are far too many stories where airline pilots simply do not recognise that an aircraft is approaching or is in a dangerous configuration, for example an aerodynamic stall, as what happend in the Air France Flight 447 and the Asiana Airlines Flight 214.

        In the Air France crash, the pilots in the cockpit did not understand that their aircraft was in a stall, and one of the pilots was pulling back on the stick in a futile attempt to stop the plane descending, but the plane was descending because it the wings had stalled, and it was no longer producing sufficient lift to maintain straight and level flight. By pulling back on the stick, the pilot was not fixing the situation, and the plane continued to descend. Eventually the captain came into the cockpit and still could not recognise the situation, but eventually did and told the pilots to push the nose down, but by this time it was too late, the result was that the plane crashed into the sea killing all on board. What the pilots should have done in this situation is release back pressure, and the plane would have recovered from the stall, and everyone would have been alive today. There were some other factors, such as poor aircraft design that came into play in this incident, but the overall reason is pilot error, inadequate pilot training, and lack of hand flying an aircraft.

        In the Asiana Airlines incident, from the information that has been released thus far, so this is still very circumstantial, the instrument landing system was not functional at the airport for the assigned runway, but the PAPI (Precision Approach Path Indicator) lighting was operational, therefore the pilots were forced to hand fly the aircraft in for landing. After taking control over from the computer, all of the pilots in the cockput did not have situational awareness, let the airspeed slow down too much, first sign that trouble was ahead, and the aircraft decended below the glide slope, the PAPI would have indicated that the aircraft was below glide slope (too low) by showing 4 red lights, yet the pilots did not recognise this sign either. The pilots eventually realised the error, and applied full power to perform a go-around, but by then it was too late, and we all know the results.

        I have other stories of Australian airline’s pilots stalling aircraft on final approach (luckly all have managed to recover the aircraft), and also American airline’s pilots stalling on approach, which unfortunately have resulted in deaths.

        The unfortunate reality of the situation is that I have a far higher quality and standard of training than most airline pilots do. I have been trained in advanced aerobatics, and emergency manoeuvre techniques. I have been taught to recognise the signs of a stall, like sloppy controls, shaking controls, and taught how to recover from a stall with less than 10 feet of altitude loss. I have been taught how to recognise and recover from a G-Stall, which is stalling at speeds way higher than published stall speeds, I have been taught spin recognition and recovery (and have endorsement to intentionally spin aircraft that are approved for spinning), and I have been taught how to recover from an aircraft in unusual attitudes, for example inverted. Unfortunately most airline pilots have not been taught this.

        I feel far safer flying in a small GA aircraft with myself as Pilot in Command, or in the right seat, than I do in any commercial airliner, cause if something happens in a commercial airliner, there is nothing I can do, but sit back and be a passenger.

        After saying all that, you are statistically more likely to be killed driving to the airport than in a plane crash.

        • And for every accident and near miss there has been due to pilot error, there have been just as many saves from pilot skill. You don’t read about those though. I also don’t think you’ve told us enough that you are in fact a pilot, and apparently, the best one in the country so please continue…

          • A pilot yes, the best in the country no, there are many pilots that are way better than I, but I have had some of the best training you can get in Australia, and will learn for the rest of my life more and more about flying, and one day soon be teaching students to fly aircraft, including teaching them how to do aerobatics and handle aircraft in a variety of unusual attitudes.

            I think you missed the point I was making, a lot of airline pilots now days have not had to go through the system of getting a General Aviation private pilots license from the local flight school, then moving onto a Commercial Pilots License and doing charter and freight work gaining valuable experience along the way, flying aircraft in all maner of conditions, before moving onto flying airlines. This is how it used to be done, you started at the bottom, gained valuable experience and moved on up to flying the big jumbos. Todays airline pilots are often the product of a traineeship, where they are taught to fly a commercial airliner by an airline or a university, often they have never flown a small aircraft before. The other problem is that once you work for an airline, they own your hours, you can only fly so many hours a year, and you bet the airlines want all those hours, so airline pilots do not really get much of an opportunity for recreational flying to maintain their hand flying skills.

            With regards to lives saved by pilot skill, you absolutely do hear about it, unless you are living under a rock, Qantas flight 32 (A380 Engine Failure), US Airways flight 1549 into the Hudson river, DHL flight to Baghdad that was hit by a missile. There are many many more of these stories too.

            AFIK it should be law that a minimum number of hours are spent hand flying and landing. Not only that they should be paid to do a set number of hours in light aircraft each year to hone their hand flying skills. It should be mandatory for airline pilots to do a Emergency Manoeuvre Training course, and redo that training ever 3 or 4 years, in real aircraft, not a simulator. If they did this, then quite possible more lives could be saved, and crashes like the examples I gave may not happen again.

        • Wow lots of info there, cheers for the reply. Having said that though, It still doesn’t change my opinion in the slightest, nor help me to understand why somebody would be more fearful in a plane than a car. – Pilots still receive more training to deal with these types of events or emergencies, compared to a driver who basically needs to be able to start, stop, merge, park and indicate safely to get their license (with no defensive driving training, and little or no information on what to do when the vehicle is out of control).

          I completely understand that there are going to be shortcomings in skill for both scenarios, but at least in a plane the pilots have more training, time to react, manuals or flight controllers to consult in case of an emergency, and a computer that generally flies the plane for you without issue. On the other hand, motorists have none of this, say your in a car and start sliding out of control. No training on this, no person or computer to help you, and its over within a split second where you have a very high chance of crashing.

          I get where you’re coming from, and understand that not all pilots are trained equally, however, the level is still far more comprehensive than what is required of a general motorist. You (sensibly) rationalize that as a trained pilot you are more fearful of being a passenger instead of in control of that plane or a smaller aircraft, I would feel the same way were I a trained pilot as would I imagine everybody else. Though you completely missed my point of why one would have greater fear towards pilots than motorists.

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