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Home > Ditching > Would inflating lifejackets inside cabin improve chances of survival in a crash landing?
Would inflating lifejackets inside cabin improve chances of survival in a crash landing?
Flying - Ditching
Written by Capt Lim   
Saturday, 01 September 2012 17:58

The hijack and crash of Ethopia Flight 961

Hi Capt Lim,

In the unlikely event of a passenger aircraft having to make an emergency crash landing, would putting on and then inflating the life-jacket under your seat increase a passenger’s chances of surviving the impact of the crash?

Jim

Hi Jim,

The purpose of a life-jacket is to keep a passenger afloat in the event of a ditching or water landing. It is not meant to be a cushioning device like an airbag in your car.

During the pre-flight briefing, all passengers are advised to inflate their life jackets ONLY at the exit prior to a ditching and NOT inside the cabin. Inflating them earlier would hamper the evacuation process.

Normally there is not much time available for an unplanned crash unless you have the presence of mind to put them on yourself immediately. Whether an inflated life jacket used as a ‘shock-absorber’ would improve your survival during a crash impact is hard to say as I believe it is not designed specifically for that purpose.

In 1996, an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 767 was hijacked but was forced to crash land/ditch into the sea. One passenger said that accident was an example where many inflated their life jackets prior to impact that led to their deaths. Whilst some say that early inflation of lifejackets would impede their chances, some of those that did survive may have survived because of the lifejacket inflated after impact.

In this hijacking/ditching plane crash, 123 of the 175 passengers and crew did not survive. The majority of the survivors were hanging on to the fuselage section which was floating. The rear section of the plane was submerged in water. Many victims did not survive because their inflated life jackets prevented them from swimming out of the water-filled fuselage.*

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Demonstration using a Life Vest

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