You may not think it from the mental picture that comes to mind of a "plane crash", but most real ones, like planes skidding off runways and such, are survivable. Over at Quora, Cheryl A Schwartz, a former flight attendant, offered some useful suggestions for making sure you survive, and get out of the plane safely.
Photo by Gareth Patterson.
Some of the suggestions are predictable -- but so important that you should keep them in mind. Simple things like making sure to actually take some time on your flight to read the safety card in the back of the seat in front of you, and to pay close attention to the flight safety video and flight attendant instructions at the beginning of the flight are critical. She also reminds us all to pay close attention to where we are in the aeroplane, and know where our closest exit is. As they say before every flight, it may be behind you, and that can make a big difference when you're trying to evacuate in a hurry.
Schwartz also notes:
KNOW HOW TO PICK THE BEST BRACE POSITION. If you have a seat in front of you, cross your hands on that seat back in front of you and rest your forehead on top of your crossed hands. You are going to flail around during a crash, but with your head supported in front of you your flailing distance is lessened and you have less chance of head and neck whiplash injuries. If there is no seat in front of you, bend over as far as you can and grab your legs behind your knees. Of course you will keep your seat belt tight, tight, tight.
PROTECT FROM FALLING LUGGAGE. Protect your head, neck and back with a blanket, jacket, coat or whatever you have to dampen the blow of overhead baggage flying out and down upon you and the ceiling falling apart.
Finally, she remarks on something else that's really important, and that's being able to take action without waiting for someone's explicit direction. Ideally a flight attendant will direct people after a crash, but don't use that as an excuse to not use your own head and get out safely. Leave your stuff behind (seriously, she explains in the thread linked below that trying to gather up your stuff or find your bag will cost you your life) and get out through the nearest exit as quickly as possible:
Most crashes are survivable. Yet, with survivable crashes, crash scene investigators find passengers without a scratch on them still belted in their seats, dead. Sometimes the passenger was just waiting for someone to individually tell them to unbuckle his seat belt and get out or they had no idea what to do. This is why knowing what to do before you take off is necessary. Or perhaps the dead passengers experienced negative panic and just froze in their seats. We are trained to re-enter a crashed aeroplane to rescue passengers like this. The first officer also goes through the plane looking for passengers. But if there is fire and the smoke has become so thick making re-entry impossible, then we can't save the ones who remain in their streets.
The rest of her answer elaborates on all of these, so make sure to check it out -- and have a good flight the next time you fly.