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Most plane crashes into water are not like the Miracle on the Hudson. First of all they usually involve small aircraft. General aviation aircraft ditch more often than large airliners.

Unfortunately, when small planes crash into water, the results are usually fatal, and needlessly so. According to an article published in the Airline Owner and Pilot Association magazine, the problem is that more than two-thirds of those who perish in such a crash are uninjured from the ditching itself but fail to extricate themselves from the aircraft and drown. (The remaining pilots and passengers die from impact injuries, non-fatal injuries that result in drowning, and exposure.)

I recently had the opportunity to get to know Brian Webster. Brian is a pilot who cares deeply about teaching passengers and pilots how to survive plane crashes into water. As a result of his work, in 2007, Brian won the Transport Canada Aviation Safety Award. Brian uses several simulators and a pool and teaches courses on underwater egress.

Listed below are several principles that may help you stay alive if your small plane crashes into water:

(1) To avoid problems exiting a door due to warping during a crash, open the door, and engage the locking mechanism before ditching. This may keep it open.

(2) Stow headsets and other loose objects before ditching. These can impeded your exit.

(3) Exit hand over hand, always grabbing one object to keep your place before grabbing the next object.

(4) Do not inflate your PDF inside the aircraft.

For more information on ditching, go to Brian’s website.

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