1. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    Surviving Plane Explosions

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Justin Rocket 2, Feb 25, 2016.

    It is commonly believed that people don't survive plane explosions. That's a myth as this link explains.

    The Great Plane Crash Myth

    Is it believable that the one sole survivor of a plane explosion is the terrorist who caused it?
     
  2. dedebird
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    dedebird Member

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    I think the fact that it is the terrorist who caused it that survives makes it more believable. He could do his research and place the bomb (or whatever hes using to crash the plane) in a place that will help him survive. He could know exactly where he needed to be for optimal survival. He could also sabotage certain things that are supposed to help passengers survive a crash, except his own so only he survives.
     
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  3. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I hate to nit pick but that article is talking about surviving any plane crash not just the explosion induced crashes.
     
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  4. Justin Rocket 2
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    As far as I could tell, though, it all leads to the same conclusion about survivability.
     
  5. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, it's talking about statistical probabilities of plane accidents. (Gotta love those lies, damned lies and statistics!)

    The point the @doggiedude made was that it doesn't say a word about explosions.

    Most accidents will be minor. There was one the other day where an Airbus took a wrong turn on taxiing and ran onto the grass. Everyone survived.

    If you make it to the ground alive, yes, you've got a good chance of surviving.

    On the other hand, a mid-air explosion will significantly reduce your chances of reaching the ground alive. If the explosion doesn't kill you outright, there's a good chance you'll get sucked out by explosive decompression and then plummet 30,000 feet to the ground, which you will hit at a speed of over 100 mph. If you don't asphyxiate in the rarefied atmosphere, you've got a good chance of being killed by impact injuries. If you don't get sucked out, you'll still be in the plane when 300 tons hits the ground, and the chances of a controlled landing when you're missing half a wing aren't good.

    The Lockerbie bombing had no survivors.

    Any terrorist who takes a bomb onto a plane is a suicide bomber, because the chances of surviving are very slim. So, he's not going to put his bomb at one end and himself at the other to maximise his chances of survival. He's carrying a martyr's shroud.

    To the OP, you could write it that, coincidentally, there was one lucky survivor, and he was the bomber. A story could start with such a coincidence (after all, enough chimpanzees and enough typewriters...), but to use it as the ending is so deus ex machina.

    ETA: Unless you want him to board the plane with his mind set on the paradise he is bound for, only to find that an unkind destiny condemns him to survive, and be forced to live through an endless purgatory on earth?
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2016
  6. divided_crown
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    divided_crown Member

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    I suppose there are two scenarios in which a bomber could survive a plane's explosion.

    1. A D.B. Cooper scenario where the attacker hijacks the plane and then bails out with appropriate (hopefully more appropriate than what Cooper used) equipment before blowing it up. This is pretty hard to achieve in modern planes though since you can't just "open a door" and jump out all that easily. And even if the hijacker manages to open the door and even if no one manages to overwhelm them once the passengers realize what is going on, jumping off of the side of a huge jet airliner is extremely dangerous.

    2. A scenario where the bombing takes place on the ground or a potential hijacker forces the plane to do an emergency landing before blowing it up, possibly to remove evidence. Bit of a stretch, but while I don't think this would hold up for long, the hijacker might be able to win some time by manipulating the altimeter and other instruments to make it look like the plane rapidly lost altitude by accident, then ignited above the ground rather than after landing. Sure, GPS data might counteract this, but then again, GPS data wasn't enough to locate MH370.

    A Lost-style scenario where a plain disintegrates in mid-air and any passengers make it out alive? Practically impossible to happen at anything higher than 300ft.
     
  7. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    Vesna Vulović survived falling 33,000 feet from an exploding plane. Based on my research, the odds of surviving falling from an exploding plane go up in your favor if you manage to surround yourself with debris which can 1.) reduce your terminal velocity and 2.) act as a cushion on landing. What you land on (preferably bushes or snow, though mud or trees might do in a pinch) helps too.
     
  8. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_fall#Surviving_falls

    This gives a total of 6 people who have survived a fall from altitude. So, not impossible, but very unlikely.

    It also suggests that 2 of the Lockerbie casualties were still alive, and died later from their injuries.

    It's worth mentioning that Vesna Vulović was found and treated by an experienced medic at the site of the wreck, and was paralyzed from the waist down when she recovered from a month in a coma. Had she not been found and treated promptly, it's quite likely she'd have died. Had there been a fire upon impact, it's quite likely she'd have died.

    There's also a theory that the plane wasn't the victim of a terrorist bomb, but was shot down, and at much lower altitude.

    There is also a discrepancy between the explanation that "she survived because she was in the rear of the plane" and her testimony, and that of the man who found her, that she was in the middle, near the wings.

    Basically, you don't plan to survive an exploding plane, it's mostly down to luck!
     
  9. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    In my story, the terrorist survives by dumb luck. He suffers brain injury (amnesia) and is in a coma for awhile.

    I just don't want the survival of the terrorist to feel like a Deus ex Machina.
     
  10. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Concur with all of the above (Naval Aviation, 5000 hours in various heavies). I think the best ending was suggested above. Expecting martyrdom, he miraculously survives, but is horribly maimed and crippled to live out the rest of his life in prison, being spoon fed... pick the most fitting injuries. I would like him to NOT have brain damage so he can appreciate this most fully. BTW, you physically cannot open the door of a passenger liner at altitude. The doors fit into a converging sill, so that the higher interior pressure at @8K feet press the door firmly into the seat against an outside air pressure @35K feet, with several hundred lbs to several tons of force required to pull it back in. The only way he goes out is through a hole in the fuselage.
     
  11. Justin Rocket 2
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    The character in question is an orphan boy who was psychologically manipulated by a terrorist leader who is an expert in manipulating people. After the explosion, the boy (John Doe) is brought into a foster family's home and integrates into the family. Though the boy has amnesia, his memory slowly returns in bits and pieces and he slowly discovers what kind of person he was. At the same time, the eldest son of the foster family slowly discovers who John Doe was and suspense is created as the eldest son fears that his family is in danger. At the midpoint, the terrorist leader, who fears that John Doe can incriminate him and reveal his operation to Homeland Security arrives and kidnaps the foster parents. Now, John Doe and the eldest son of the foster family need to work together to rescue the foster family. At the climax, John Doe offers himself to the terrorist leader to be killed if the terrorist leader will let the foster parents go.
     
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  12. Mckk
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    that sounds kinda cool :D sounds like something I'd read.
     
  13. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    By the way, I'd agree with what I read above - guy surviving through dumb luck is fine if it's at the very beginning with the story opening after the fact (y'know, like Lost). Putting that anywhere else in the story might feel a little forced. Life is stranger than fiction - just because it can happen in real life doesn't mean it can be used in fiction, because in life, coincidences and dumb luck happens. But in fiction where it's an artificial environment where everything is the author's making, coincidences and dumb luck just look like the author taking the easy way out or making excuses.

    You could have the boy be as surprised as the reader at his own survival - that could work potentially. Since the boy's bound to need treatment, which means medical staff will tell him he survived a plane explosion, so he'd know that much.
     
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  14. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Just a thought . It might help the realism if a few people survive.
     
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  15. Justin Rocket 2
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    The story starts with Sheriff Callaway (the future foster father) and the eldest son, Peter, patrolling the lake as part of the volunteer search and rescue team (i.e. the Sheriff isn't on duty). They are frantic because a storm is blowing in. Peter finds John Doe on top of a wing of the plane on a small mud patch.

    I want to do a Hitchcock thing and use birds flying about pecking at what meat they can find as a symbol for insanity and then compare the media to the birds. So, the crash area is important as the birds need to be seen.
     
  16. Sileas
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    Sileas Member

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    I keep thinking, "Oh, I know some pilots---I'll ask Matt or Leo if it's---"

    "Your pilots are fictional, dear."

    Just to chip in with others, it's possible to survive. To put a tool in your box, what you could do is put the bomb at the back of the plane, and have the terrorist force their way onto the flight deck. There is a lil trap door in the cockpit that leads directly to the outside. Drop down into the cargo hold and from there to the outside. Do this right before or right after the explosion, maybe. Maybe even make sure to engineer him a parachute too.

    I listened to some stuff from an air traffic control guy in New York who's known for his sense of humor. One of the featured recordings is a Lufthansa captain telling ATC he's gonna pull out of the taxi line and use that trap door to go outside of his plane and fix something himself, rather than waiting for a tug to get there. The ATC guy's reaction was...priceless.
     

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