Secrets of My Crash-Survival Plan

By Mary Hunt

November 7, 2016 4 min read

You may know that I travel a lot. What you probably don't know (and how would you, since I've only ever told about three people?) is that I have a flight routine that I strictly adhere to. Honestly, unless you knew this ahead of time, you would not be able to detect it at all, even if you were my travel companion.

While watching the news, I saw airline personnel talking about in-flight safety and how to respond during an emergency. I decided then that my safety routine might not be so weird after all. Here it is.

NATURAL FIBERS ONLY. When I fly, I only wear clothing made of cotton, linen or wool. Statistics show that most people who die in a plane crash don't die from the crash itself but from related fire and smoke. Man-made fibers like polyester, rayon and nylon don't burn; they melt. And they melt at a fairly low temperature. I do not want my clothes melting into my skin. Cotton, linen and wool do not catch fire quickly, which would buy me time.

LONG PANTS, LONG SLEEVES. Exposed skin is a problem in a fiery situation. Mere seconds could mean the difference between getting out of there or falling prey to the conditions. If my skin were burning, my chances of survival would be reduced. So I wear long cotton pants, a long-sleeved shirt, a jacket, cotton socks and shoes. It's my armor. And if my jacket has a hood, that's all the better.

AISLE SEAT. You've probably guessed already, but I'll tell you anyway: I want to be able to get out quickly. Plane seating has become more crowded than ever. I always select an aisle seat close to an exit. I don't want to be crammed up against the window with the middle seat occupied, unable to get past my seatmates. I want as many options as possible.

SHORT IS GOOD. I am a short person. In many areas of life this is a drawback. But when it comes to crash survival, it could be beneficial. I actually had the opportunity to practice what I am about to tell you (when I boarded a flight early and no one was looking). The aisle seats can actually act as steppingstones. I am short enough to walk along the tops of the seats (crouched down, but nonetheless), which is much faster than trying to make it down a crowded aisle. I could be of great help to others if I'm not on fire and am able to move quickly. This is my justification for why I should get out before those waiting in the aisle.

KNOW THE AIRCRAFT. I actually pay attention to the flight safety instructions. Because I only fly Southwest and American Airlines, I know the different planes pretty well. First, I take note of my seat location (though I try to sit in the same vicinity for familiarity purposes). Then, I memorize the exit rows the minute I sit down. I run through an evacuation in my mind: I look at the tiny lightbulbs along the aisle — and always wonder how many of those bulbs might be broken. I observe the people seated around me and how I would make my exit. I often opt for the exit row, so I read the somewhat confusing instructions printed on the wall/door. I always assume the guy next to the window doesn't have a clue, so I practice how I will yell instructions at him. ("No! PULL the latch. PULL! OK, throw it out! NO! THROW THE DOOR OUT!") It amuses me to anticipate how he will react.

Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

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