The following is to advise you and stimulate thought regarding your safety on any flight. No one wants to sensationalise or be over dramatic. The key is to achieve a high level of "Quiet safety" through knowledge and preparation.
Dying of overwhelming circumstances is one thing, "I did not know that" is quite another . As you read on, don't rely on "the pilot will know ". Assume you are the only person remaining conscious.
You will see that leaving preparation to when you are within 4 ft of the aircraft rather than within 4 days is far too late.
Therefore these notes are to effectively show you how to "crash nicely".
Every time you fly, assume you are going to crash. Work on the principle of, you never meet a disappointed pessimist.
When your body comes to a sudden stop, your balance mechanism cannot cope. You will experience the sensation of tumbling forward, over and over. The fast jet pilots are subject to this when stopping on an aircraft carrier arrester wire. So stepping "dazed from the wreckage" is a reality. You must be mentally prepared for this.
The principle purpose of the crash position when using face forward seats, is to prevent facial injury and whiplash. On any flight in practice, you may not have the space just to bend forward or there might be flight controls or camera consoles in the way. Consider how you can keep your face protected, especially your eyes and if you wear them, remove false teeth and any glasses.
Do not to scream if you think you are going to crash. It adds very little to the event and is distracting to the pilot (at a very stressful time). The real problem is on impact; you may bite a large amount of your tongue off. This will be particularly upsetting if you survive, as you may never be able to speak normally again.
Jet engines use AVTUR which is high quality paraffin (kerosene). At normal ambient temperatures it is incredibly resistant to burn. Whilst not advised, you could throw lit matches into a bucketful and not ignite it. The problem comes when a tank splits on impact and fuel comes into contact with hot components.
Insist on a paramedic
On single site locations depending on your influence on a shoot, insist on a paramedic. (All tell us two of them are 3 times better than one).
With helicopters, broadly the fuel is placed lower than the engines for centre of gravity reasons and to shorten the rotor mast required, which is OK until it falls over. On fixed wing, most of the fuel is contained in the wing. Fire is a very great danger but "the impact and explode" scenario rarely happens. However we always portray this in the movies, as it saves time and looks good!
The thing to remember is that it might catch fire very quickly get yourself and others clear ASAP.
Check your personal insurance covers non scheduled flights of the nature that you are undertaking. That is not what should be going through your mind prior to impact.
Former World 500cc motorcycle champion, Barry Sheen (who had several horrendous crashes and whose body was held together with plates and screws) when once asked "So Barry what's the last thing that goes through your mind as you crash at high speed ?" His reply was "my arse if I'm travelling fast enough!"
Sharp items in pockets
Check for any items in your pockets that might cause damage. It would be really annoying to have been able to survive, except you were killed by your ball point pen.
For 3-4 persons on board, the legal medical kit required to be carried is a joke. Consider carrying your own kit, available from mountaineering shops.
In suspect countries, carry a sterile medical kit (syringes, needles etc. available from trekking shops). Brief a colleague that you have it and only it should be used if required.
Wear a label
You may have a problem away from unit base. To a rescuer, who are you? Consider wearing a discrete "dog tag" with you; details in English and any local relevant language. (This could even be a luggage label.) All the Air Medivak air repatriation insurance is useless when they don't know who you are? This can also draw attention to any allergies and your sterile kit, as it would be disappointing to survive a big incident only to contract AIDS.
Carry a safety knife in a place easy to get at. You may need to cut cables or harnesses, available for £1 .
In a helicopter accident, normally if you have to be in the vicinity, the safest place to be is inside. Stay in, until told to leave or everything stops moving. On exit be very careful; many have survived the impact only to have a part fall on them.
Be pro-active prior to the first flight. Ask the pilot to brief you how to open and or jettison all doors from inside and out. Some doors are complex, especially sliding doors that often require a double action and a secondary lever to open. You may be OK, but can you assist a colleague who is still inside?
Consider the environment you are flying over. The windows "greenhouse effect", may make the interior hot, even on a cool day. Even if the helicopter has to make a precautionary landing, do you have the right protective clothing with you?
In remote areas, if you have a problem at sunset (and when do we always shoot?), you might have to overnight rather than risk walking out in pitch darkness. It could be 12hrs to dawn, with no guarantee the mobile phones or radios will contact anyone.
This fact alone kills many light aircraft pilots in Canada and Alaska. "Its OK we're only flying for an hour".
Clothing and fire
Protect yourself quietly. It is true that statistically, we would all be safer if we wore helmets and fire resistant suits every time we drove a car, but clearly no way!
However on a day to day basis, when film flying, just keep as much exposed skin covered as is reasonable; materials such as cotton and silk are OK. Avoid nylon wherever possible, it burns like a torch and has the rather nasty quality of blending with your skin when molten (the surgeon has to remove the whole section. Ow!)
If the outside temperature requires thermals, wear "Nomex". Nomex is worn by racing drivers. For us, it has 3 good properties; its warm, fire resistant and most importantly, does not melt.
When we say protect yourself quietly (no one wants to appear a harbinger of doom). You can get perfectly plain T shirts, socks and gloves etc in Nomex. Some confuse sensible preparation with apprehension or may be a tad irritated if they pitch up wearing a designer label ski suit, only to then learn about the properties of nylon. (Why Directors come to mind, we have no idea?)
However far you fly, consider what is being carried in the aircraft with you, even if you are just positioning across the airfield; think what a 20kg battery could do to your head at 20mph. Be pedantic, get it tied down.
It would be nice to say get yourself a quality flying helmet, but in reality there is the problem of plugs. Even though Britain and the USA are on the same side (which is a moot point with Gulf War 2) there is a British NATO plug and an American NATO plug. They vary slightly in a different size so neither fits the other. The plug problem is solvable with multi adaptors, but variation of impedance, means they are a problem to use widely.
David Clark make a helmet that you can fit their headset in (and others). It's not Top Gun posing material but its far better than nothing.
Lockable Seat belt
Understand how your seat belt works. Very few pilots even understand that there is a difference between normal airline "flap type" buckles. Do it up then slowly lift the flap. The American version will release at 30 degrees (not very much movement), the British requirement has to travel to 90 degrees. If you have something on your lap, you might be about to impact with your seat belt unfastened, which can lead to disappointment.
Few understand on the front passenger seat of the Squirrel (Astar), some shoulder straps can be selected for inertia reel or locked. If you are going to crash, which would you rather trust, a mechanism that might lock or one that is already locked? The lever's on the left hand side of your seat (and he never knew).
Also check the strap attach clasps are fully latched.(pic right)
Lifejacket/suit - wear it
A helicopter in auto rotation descends at upto 2000ft per min therefore, from 500 ft you have 15sec., from 100 ft, 5sec., it's taken you longer to read the previous sentence. If you are about to exit a helicopter underwater, all you need is a lifejacket in your hand. (See Ditching).
Where to sit?
Next to an exit, be the first in the queue. People insist on taking their duty free booze down slides. That means, being first you don't arrive on broken glass or have a punctured slide.
Some say that it is safest in the rear of the aircraft as there is a 200ft crumple zone ahead of you and with wing mounted engines, little behind you. It is telling that normally the flight data recorder is positioned in the tail.
There is some very frightening test footage where they took students and offered £50 to the first 25 out of an airliner. They were crushed and piled 4 deep in the doorway with others climbing over them.
On take-off, the cabin staff say "we just have to dim the lights but you can use the reading light". The reason of dimming the lights is to increase night vision if an evacuation is required in darkness. This legal requirement is completely negated by using the reading light. Avoid looking at any lights during this period and you're ahead of the game.
Carry a torch
On an airliner, there are perhaps 20 torches (flashlites) for the flight crew to supervise perhaps 400 passengers. If you have one of your own you may be one pace ahead.
Every one grumbles when they say "please return your seat to the upright with the arm rests down". What they never explain is that it is only when the seat is in the upright position, is it locked and achieves its maximum design strength.
The arm rests down, help keep you in place literally and prevent your body and/or skull impacting on the passenger in the next seat.
Lifejacket under seat?
Is there? They tell you there is, but do you check? If the aircraft's full and about to ditch, asking the next passenger for theirs may elicit a frosty response.
Consider buying one of these. Tests have shown that they do lengthen the time available during an evacuation. The airlines have avoided providing them on the grounds:
a) That time lost in donning them could be crucial
I leave it up to you which reason took precedent.
Flying in Private Military Jets
Don't do it. Think of it as bungee jumping with a bungee that's been stored in salt water. There are some fantastic quality aircraft restorers and maintenance companies and there are some awful ones, the problem is telling them apart.
All the previous suggestions are valueless if you survive the crash but not the aftermath. This needs very little preparation; buy one book.
Buy the SAS Manual
This is available in a genuine pocket edition, get it and have it with you. We're in the film industry, I can't remember 150 pages of complex procedures if I do not use them regularly.
The SAS book is wonderful with some startling survival ideas, but you get to think. On the next page it will tell you how to skin two squirrels and make them into a colour television set.
Other aspects recommended to note:
Radio freq 121.5
Remember this frequency. It is the international distress frequency. With a cell phone your caller without any knowledge of your whereabouts tracks you down by pressing call.
Not so aircraft radios, VHF only works in line of sight, so if you have a problem somewhere remote you may be 30 miles away horizontally, but don't forget airliners; they are your "passing satellites" to relay your distress message, 25,000 ft is only 5 miles line of sight.
The aircraft's radio may be hampered by having aerials mounted on the underside.
Finally never ever give up.
Statistics show, those with a stronger will to survive, normally do so.
For 5 mins in your life you will appear as a total prat, but they may not be the last 5 mins of your life.