Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Imagine: you're flying! Weee!!! But wait, where's the plane? A wingsuit? Parachute? Anything! Uh-oh, looks like you're 6 miles (10 km) high and free-falling! So, is this it or is there a way to hack yourself out of this dire situation? Now, don't get me wrong. I'm a sucker for a good life hack. But let's be real: a person's chances of survival when falling from a height of 35,000 feet (10,000 m) are slim. By the way, why do slim chance and fat chance mean the same thing? Anyway, despite this poor outlook, you still have a glimmer of hope! You'll be surprised to know that if you were to stumble from the top of a tall building, you'd be in a much worse situation! (But more on that here in a bit!) To make you feel a little better about your odds, you can take a look at historian Jim Hamilton's book Long-Fall Survival: Analysis of the Collected Accounts. It lists over 200 cases of people falling from a plane without a parachute and living to tell the tale! But you can check that out once you're safe and sound back on the ground. For now, let's get back to your strictly hypothetical free-fall. Right from the get-go, you'd probably pass out because there's not much oxygen when you're 6 miles (10 km) up in the atmosphere. While your brain is on an oxygen-deprived sleep-mode, you'll be falling like a sack of potatoes for about a mile (~1.5 km). See you when you come out of it! While you're unconscious, here's an interesting tidbit about free-falling. Earth's gravity is pulling you down and trying to accelerate you. On the other hand, like any moving object, you're facing air resistance, which is kind of a drag. No really, this drag is increasing the faster you fall. At a certain point (usually within the first third of a mile, or roughly 1,800 feet (550 m)), these two forces become equal and acceleration ceases. It's called terminal velocity -- you're falling at a constant speed of about 120 miles per hour (190 kph), give or take depending on your weight, height, and the density of the air around you. And guess what? If you were falling from a skyscraper, you'd land with the same force as when you fall from a 6-mile height. But you'd only have 12 seconds to prepare for contact, versus having approximately 3 minutes when falling from a plane. It doesn't sound like much, but it makes a world of a difference when it comes to your chances of survival! Ok, your brain is now getting enough oxygen, and you wake up from your mid-fall nap. Welcome back! So, there are 2 scenarios when you're falling from a plane with no parachute. The first is when you're free-falling with just yourself and the clothes on your back. The second way is to try and become a “wreckage rider.” This is what Jim Hamilton calls the lucky ones who've managed to grab some wreckage of the plane and basically surf down to the ground on it. If you can do this, you'll double (or even triple) your chances of survival. And that's been proven by statistics: since the 1940s, there've been 31 wreckage riders who survived and only 13 of those who had to totally free-fall empty-handed. In 1972, Serbian flight attendant Vesna Vulović incidentally broke a world record for surviving the highest fall without a parachute. At 33,000 feet (10,000 m) in the air, the plane she was on exploded, and she fell that whole distance while being squeezed between her seat and a food trolley. She landed on a snowy mountain slope and slid down it until she finally came to a stop. Vulović did receive some serious injuries, but after several months in the hospital, she managed to recover. But let's say you don't find any wreckage to ride down on. Stay calm, it's not over yet! Here's another story to cheer you up. In 1943, American military pilot Alan Magee survived a 20,000-foot (6,000 m) absolute free-fall that ended with him crashing through the glass ceiling of the St. Nazaire train station in France. He made it out alive and lived to the age of 82! Ok, now that you can breathe normally and have 2 minutes before you land, you can enjoy the view! And, you can move your body too. Sure, without a wingsuit, you won't be able to gracefully glide down like a flying squirrel, but you can use your legs and arms to steer yourself toward a safer surface, which is… Not water! When you're falling at 120 mph (190 kph) from 6 miles (10 km) high, water will feel like concrete. It's good only if the body of water is deep enough and you manage to protect your head from the impact. But if you've got no choice and there's nothing but water below, try to dive. Some say it's best to go feet-first with your legs straight and pulled tightly together (that's key!). Others swear you need to dive head-first with your arms stretched above you and your fingers laced together – this will protect your head from the impact. Whatever you choose (or end up having to settle for), vertical is best when it comes to deep water landings. Ok, if water isn't the best option (or one at all), then what? Look for something that can soften the blow – a snow bank or slope, a haystack, a big tree. Marshland is ideal since it's soft and swampy. Just watch out for the gators afterward. If there's a town or village below, look for something big and flat – say, a truck or camper. A tile or glassy roof is much better than a concrete one. Remember Alan Magee's glass-roof landing! Now that you've chosen your target, you need to try and direct your fall. To slow down, spread your arms and legs apart (think flying squirrel!), throw your head back, and straighten your shoulders. The goal is to make your body take up as much space as possible because it'll create more resistance so that you can maneuver your body and direction more easily. To steer right, lower your right shoulder and look to the right. The same goes for banking left to go left. If you need to go forward, you'll straighten your legs and arms while sweeping them back along your sides. To make your body move backward, straighten your arms out in front of you, and bend your knees. These are familiar movements to those of us who've tried skydiving before. Yeah, it's fun. Buuut you're not skydiving in this scenario. Just remember that no matter what the surface below is, you need to avoid landing on your head. Brain injuries are no joke, and it'll immediately set your chances of survival to zero. If you're falling with your head down and can do nothing about it, try to land on your face. I know, it sounds counter-intuitive, but it's better than hitting the top or back of your skull. Now, right before landing, you have two more choices depending on who you ask. You can either maintain that spread-eagle pose or pull your legs together and keep your knees and hips tight. You better decide fast – your 3 minutes are up! Boom! Congratulations, lucky you -- you're alive! You look like a pancake but you're breathing. You survived-- What are you gonna do now? I'm going to WallyWorld! No really, if you've landed in the jungle, I've got one more story of survival that should be of use to you… It was Christmas Eve in 1971, and 17-year-old Juliane Koepcke was flying from Lima to Pucallpa, Peru right after celebrating her high school graduation. When her plane came up on some severe weather and was struck by lightning, the whole thing exploded right above the Amazon Rainforest. After falling over 10,000 feet (3,000 m), Koepcke, still strapped into her seat, hit the ground and passed out. When she came to the next morning, she found herself all alone in the jungle. She was pretty beaten up, but she could walk, and that's exactly what she did. So, how on Earth could this teen survive 11 days stranded in the middle of the Amazon? Well, maybe she was lucky in that she had a unique set of skills for a girl her age. Juliane's parents were both scientists: her father was a biologist, and her mom - an ornithologist. They used to take their daughter with them to a research station deep in the jungle. So, she knew about all the possible dangers and how to avoid them. She walked very slowly, feeling the ground with a stick so that a venomous snake wouldn't surprise her. She had no fire or warm clothes, drank rainwater, and had only some candies for food. She was too weak to try to catch fish or hunt, but she just kept walking along the river. Her dad always taught her: when you're lost, follow the river downstream to civilization. (Keep that in mind if you ever find yourself in a similar situation!) On the 10th day, she came across a small hut. Already exhausted, she decided to rest there for the night. In the morning, some fishermen found her in their shelter and took Juliane to the nearest village, where she was taken by helicopter to Pucallpa. The girl survived not only because she was lucky but also brave and smart: she left the place of the accident and kept going! Anyway, I hope you won't ever have to put these tips to the test. But, hey, if the topic ever comes up in conversation, now you know how to survive a 35,000-foot (10,000 m) free-fall! Me, well years ago when I used to skydive and was traveling somewhere on an airline, I would always bring my parachute in the cabin with me. It was fun to provoke some wide-eyed looks from the other passengers. I'd simply say: I guess you haven't flown this airline recently, have you? and walk right on past. True story. Do you know any other tips on what to do in an extreme situation? Please share them down in the comments! And if you learned something new today, then give this video a like and share it with a friend. But – hey! – don't bail out just yet! We have over 2,000 cool videos for you to check out. All you have to do is pick the left or right video, click on it, and enjoy! Stay on the Bright Side of life!