Has there ever been a case of an ADULT surviving ...from an airplane crash...

Has there ever been a case of an ADULT surviving in pretty good condition from an airplane that crashed from approximately 30,000 feet?

Yes, see [Vesna Vulovic](Vesna Vulovic) while she didn’t come out unscathed, she survived the crash.

Maybethis linkwould help?

And what do we mean by “adult”?

Vesna Vulovic is the only one I know who survived at all from 30,000 feet. I wouldn’t say that she survived in pretty good condition though. She ended up with a bunch of broken bones and was temporarily paralyzed. After several operations they were able to cure the paralysis and she eventually made a full recovery (basically).

There were a few guys who ended up being basically shot out of their bombers at 20,000 feet during WWII and somehow managed to survive. Most ended up badly injured.

The one exception is Nicholas Alkemade. He was a tail gunner in WWII. His plane was shot up pretty badly and ended up on fire. When the order came to bail out, he found that his chute was on fire. Faced with a choice of burning alive as the plane went down or jumping to his death, he chose to jump. He fell about 20,000 feet and landed on some fir trees, bushes, and a bit of snow, and somehow managed to walk away basically with a few scratches and a slightly sprained knee. Nick couldn’t say exactly how he had managed to survive since he had lost consciousness on the way down due to the lack of oxygen at high altitude.

Since he basically fell 20,000 feet and didn’t get hurt, the Germans did not believe his story and almost executed him. Fortunately for Nick, they found his plane and the remains of his charred chute exactly as he had described.

Alan Magee and Ivan Chisov are the other two whose names I remember. Alan was basically shot out of his bomber and came crashing down through the skylight in the St. Nazair train station. He broke a bunch of bones but survived and recovered. Ivan was the only one of this group that jumped with a functioning parachute. He was afraid to use it right away though, fearing that as he floated down on his chute he would just make himself an easy target for a pissed off German fighter pilot. What he planned to do was drop down below the level of the battle and then pop his chute. What he instead did was pass out on the way down and never opened his chute. He landed on the side of a snowy ravine and bounced and rolled his way to the bottom. He broke several bones, but recovered and went back to flying soon afterwards.

Alan and Ivan also fell roughly 20,000 feet. This was the altitude that a lot of bombers flew during WWII, which is why they all fell from roughly the same height.

ETA: I fixed the typo in the thread title, btw.

Yeah, I don’t know why the OP specified “adult”. The only non-adult that I am aware of who fell any great distance was Juliane Koepcke. She was a teenager who survived her plane breaking up at 10,000 feet. She not only survived the fall, she also had to find her way out of the Amazon forest alone.

Yeah, she was 17, I’d have considered her adult enough. Just not from as high as the OP specified.

What does “crashed from … 30,000 feet” mean? That the plane had been at 30,000 feet and then crashed or …?

FTR, once you reach a terminal velocity of 120 mph, there’s really not much difference between falling from 1500 ft. or 30,000 ft.

Although, you wouldn’t have breathable air above 22,000 ft.

We also need to define “crash”. There have been a lot of cases of planes making contact with the ground before they were supposed to, but where the pilot still had some measure of control, and so was able to make the crash at least somewhat gentle.

And you also didn’t specify in your OP that the person be in the airplane during the crash. Plenty of folks have successfully bailed out of a plane which was in the process of crashing, before the impact itself.

I am guessing the OP is asking about surviving a crash caused by some sort of in-air incident (i.e., mechanical failure, explosion) which occurred at cruising altitude rather than at takeoff or landing.

Presumably, the OP must know some examples of children surviving such a crash as he is envisioning, so maybe if the OP would provide us with an example, we can figure out the parameters of the question.

(ETA: or was there a recent news event that promoted this question that I am not aware of?)

Probably just a “need answer fast”-type situation.

“Between 1962 and 1982, Croatian nationalists carried out 128 terror attacks against Yugoslav civilian and military targets. The Yugoslav authorities suspected that they were to blame for bringing down Flight 367.”

Oog. I was on a couple of JAT (Jugoslav Aero Transport) flights with my family during the summer of '69. My mother had a bad fear of flying and spent much of the time in-air with her eyes closed, gripping the seat arms. If she’d known about the Croatian nationalist threat, we’d never have gotten her on the plane. :eek::slight_smile:

"Vulović attributed her recovery to her “Serbian stubbornness” and “a childhood diet that included chocolate, spinach, and fish oil.”

I don’t recall gourmet inflight meals on JAT, but those things definitely weren’t on the menu.

One wonders whether the OP mentioned adults because he/she is aware of the nonlinear scaling effects that Haldane described with such macabre eloquence:

A child can survive a fall that would kill an adult, so maybe the OP wouldn’t be so impressed with an anecdote about a kid falling that far and surviving.

OP, will you please explain why you specified “adults?”

The effects of hypoxia increase quite rapidly at higher altitudes.

At 20,000’ you have ~30 minutes of useful consciousness but only ~60 seconds at 30,000’ and about ~10 seconds at 45,000’

As airplanes do not tend to fall straight down CNS failure happens quickly after these types due to the effects of hypoxia unless you have supplemental oxygen.

Thus the “put on your own mask first” instructions.

I think it is a bit of a trope. By the time I type “child only su” into Google it is offering to autofill “rvivor of plane crash.” It was a plot element in the TV series Strange Luck.

(BTW, wiki list.)

Nicholas Alkemade, Alan Magee, and Ivan Chisov all left their airplanes at 20,000 feet (ish). All three took significantly less than 30 minutes to hit the ground (closer to 2 minutes, I think), and all three lost consciousness on the way down.

I’m not sure if their planes were pressurized, what oxygen they may have had on-board, or how long they had been at 20,000 feet before their bombers were destroyed.

There are multiple reasons a person may loose consciousness and those numbers are probably based on averages of people in chambers without the same stress level.

Probably from chambers like those in this Smarter Every Day video.

People jumping or directly falling out of aircraft is less common than rapid depressurization or an ice induced stall/spin.

An ice induced stall resulting in flight breakup/structural failure or a rapid depressurization leading to incapacitated crew would typically lead to longer exposure.

Any condition that increases oxygen requirements, such as exercise or cold or stress, will reduce tolerance to hypoxia.

But yes it is not uniquely the risk here.

Lack of oxygen might not have been the only factor in their loss of consciousness. You might be able to go a half-hour at that level if you remain calm and minimally active, but falling out of a burning airplane is seldom a calm experience.

and is the inspiration for laura croft of tomb raider