With our archives now 3,500+ articles deep, we’ve decided to republish a classic piece each Sunday to help our newer readers discover some of the best, evergreen gems from the past. This article was originally published in July 2013. 

We often think that plane crashes are catastrophic and unsurvivable events. Thanks to movies and 24/7 news channels, the enduring image of a plane crash usually involves an aircraft plummeting to the ground from 30,000 feet and obliterating everyone on board in a terrifying fireball.

Thankfully, that isn’t the case. In a report analyzing airline accidents from 1983 to 2000, the National Transportation Safety Board found that the survival rate of crashes was 95.7%. Sure, there are some accidents where everyone, or nearly everyone, died, but those are much rarer than you’d guess based on what you see in the news. The NTSB found that even in serious accidents where fire and substantial damage occurred, 76.6% of passengers still survived.

Combine those stats with the relative rarity of airplane accidents even happening in the first place (the average American’s chances of being killed in an airplane crash are about 1 in 11 million), and you can see that flying is actually the safest form of transportation there is. Taking to the road on an average day is far more dangerous — it just doesn’t feel like it because you have four (or two) wheels on the ground and a sense of control.

But it’s important to take note of another interesting tidbit that the FAA and NTSB found in their research on plane crashes: 40% of fatalities that did occur happened in crashes that were survivable. Close to half of all airplane crash fatalities might have been prevented had passengers taken proper action.

While the odds of being involved in a plane crash may be slim, they’re not zero. If it happened to you, would you know what to do to increase your chances of walking away? In today’s article we’re going to offer research-backed advice from Ben Sherwood’s The Survivor’s Club on what you can do to make it out of a plane crash alive.

You’ve Only Got 90 Seconds to Get Out

Understanding this is the key ingredient to surviving, and will frame all the other tips in this article. If you’ve survived the crash landing, you have a pretty good chance of getting out of the airplane alive. But, you only have 90 seconds to do so.

You see, the thing that kills most passengers in a plane crash isn’t the actual impact, it’s the fire that typically engulfs the plane afterwards. Folks may be surprised they survived the impact, and become complacent about other dangers. People vastly underestimate how quickly a fire can spread and consume an airplane. Surveys show that most people think they actually have about 30 minutes to get out of a burning plane. The reality is that it takes, on average, just 90 seconds for a fire to burn through the plane’s aluminum fuselage and consume everything and everyone in it. If that sounds scary, it should; you need to be motivated to get your rear end out of the plane!

Be Fit

The FAA has rigorously studied and crunched the numbers on airplane crash survivors, as well as tested nearly 2,500 people in simulated evacuations to find out the type of person who typically survives. Their results?

Young, slender men have the best odds of surviving a plane crash. (Old, fat women have the worst odds — sorry Aunt Myrtle.)

The FAA has found that differences in age, gender, and girth account for 31% of the difference between people’s evacuation times. Escaping a plane crash requires you to maneuver quickly through narrow aisles with luggage and wreckage strewn about. You may even have to throw blockages out of your way. You then have to slip through an emergency exit that may only be twenty inches wide. Kind of hard to do if you’re fat and out of shape.

Not only can being out of shape reduce your chances of survival, it could also put other people’s lives at risk because they have to wait for you to exit safely. Hold-ups at the exit due to passengers having trouble deplaning has caused many unnecessary deaths. In a runway collision that occurred in 1991, investigators found the charred remains of 10 passengers lined up in the aisle waiting to leave the wing exit; folks who froze up and had trouble squeezing through the

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