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commit e78dc65e5fd18a1acd3075d1fcf7aa50aff171b7
parent 9b027d3f4c7e1313bfec198b55ad4ff95ccc87b2
Author: Chris Bracken <chris@bracken.jp>
Date:   Wed, 15 Sep 2021 10:55:59 -0700

Add Unplanned Freefall

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diff --git a/unplanned_freefall.md b/unplanned_freefall.md @@ -0,0 +1,152 @@ +Unplanned Freefall? Some Survival Tips +====================================== + +By David Carkeet <carkeetdavid@gmail.com> +Original: http://www.greenharbor.com/fffolder/carkeet.html + +Admit it: You want to be the sole survivor of an airline disaster. You aren't +looking for a disaster to happen, but if it does, you see yourself coming +through it. I'm here to tell you that you're not out of touch with reality—you +can do it. Sure, you'll take a few hits, and I'm not saying there won't be some +sweaty flashbacks later on, but you'll make it. You'll sit up in your hospital +bed and meet the press. Refreshingly, you will keep God out of your public +comments, knowing that it's unfair to sing His praises when all of your dead +fellow-passengers have no platform from which to offer an alternative view. + +Let's say your jet blows apart at 35,000 feet. You exit the aircraft, and you +begin to descend independently. Now what? + +First of all, you're starting off a full mile higher than Everest, so after a +few gulps of disappointing air you're going to black out. This is not a bad +thing. If you have ever tried to keep your head when all about you are losing +theirs, you know what I mean. This brief respite from the ambient fear and chaos +will come to an end when you wake up at about 15,000 feet. Here begins the final +phase of your descent, which will last about a minute. It is a time of planning +and preparation. Look around you. What equipment is available? None? Are you +sure? Look carefully. Perhaps a shipment of packed parachutes was in the cargo +hold, and the blast opened the box and scattered them. One of these just might +be within reach. Grab it, put it on, and hit the silk. You're sitting pretty. + +Other items can be helpful as well. Let nature be your guide. See how yon maple +seed gently wafts to earth on gossamer wings. Look around for a proportionate +personal vehicle—some large, flat, aerodynamically suitable piece of wreckage. +Mount it and ride, cowboy! Remember: molecules are your friends. You want a +bunch of surface-area molecules hitting a bunch of atmospheric molecules in +order to reduce your rate of acceleration. + +As you fall, you're going to realize that your previous visualization of this +experience has been off the mark. You have seen yourself as a loose, free body, +and you've imagined yourself in the belly-down, limbs-out position (good: you +remembered the molecules). But, pray tell, who unstrapped your seat belt? You +could very well be riding your seat (or it could be riding you; if so, +straighten up and fly right!); you might still be connected to an entire row of +seats or to a row and some of the attached cabin structure. + +If thus connected, you have some questions to address. Is your new conveyance +air-worthy? If your entire row is intact and the seats are occupied, is the +passenger next to you now going to feel free to break the code of silence your +body language enjoined upon him at takeoff? If you choose to go it alone, simply +unclasp your seat belt and drift free. Resist the common impulse to use the +wreckage fragment as a "jumping-off point" to reduce your plunge-rate, not +because you will thereby worsen the chances of those you leave behind (who are +they kidding? they're goners!), but just because the effect of your puny jump is +so small compared with the alarming Newtonian forces at work. + +Just how fast are you going? Imagine standing atop a train going 120 mph, and +the train goes through a tunnel but you do not. You hit the wall above the +opening at 120 mph. That's how fast you will be going at the end of your fall. +Yes, it's discouraging, but proper planning requires that you know the facts. +You're used to seeing things fall more slowly. You're used to a jump from a +swing or a jungle gym, or a fall from a three-story building on TV action news. +Those folks are not going 120 mph. They will not bounce. You will bounce. Your +body will be found some distance away from the dent you make in the soil (or +crack in the concrete). Make no mistake: you will be motoring. + +At this point you will think: trees. It's a reasonable thought. The concept of +"breaking the fall" is powerful, as is the hopeful message implicit in the +nursery song "Rock-a-bye, Baby," which one must assume from the affect of the +average singer tells the story not of a baby's death but of its survival. You +will want a tall tree with an excurrent growth pattern—a single, undivided trunk +with lateral branches, delicate on top and thicker as you cascade downward. A +conifer is best. The redwood is attractive for the way it rises to shorten your +fall, but a word of caution here: the redwood's lowest branches grow dangerously +high from the ground; having gone 35,000 feet, you don't want the last 50 feet +to ruin everything. The perfectly tiered Norfolk Island pine is a natural safety +net, so if you're near New Zealand, you're in luck, pilgrim. When crunch time +comes, elongate your body and hit the tree limbs at a perfectly flat angle as +close to the trunk as possible. Think! + +Snow is good—soft, deep, drifted snow. Snow is lovely. Remember that you are the +pilot and your body is the aircraft. By tilting forward and putting your hands +at your side, you can modify your pitch and make progress not just vertically +but horizontally as well. As you go down 15,000 feet, you can also go sideways +two-thirds of that distance—that's two miles! Choose your landing zone. You be +the boss. + +If your search discloses no trees or snow, the parachutist's "five-point +landing" is useful to remember even in the absence of a parachute. Meet the +ground with your feet together, and fall sideways in such a way that five parts +of your body successively absorb the shock, equally and in this order: feet, +calf, thigh, buttock, and shoulder. 120 divided by 5 = 24. Not bad! 24 mph is +only a bit faster than the speed at which experienced parachutists land. There +will be some bruising and breakage but no loss of consciousness to delay your +press conference. Just be sure to apportion the 120-mph blow in equal fifths. +Concentrate! + +Much will depend on your attitude. Don't let negative thinking ruin your +descent. If you find yourself dwelling morbidly on your discouraging starting +point of seven miles up, think of this: Thirty feet is the cutoff for fatality +in a fall. That is, most who fall from thirty feet or higher die. Thirty feet! +It's nothing! Pity the poor sod who falls from such a "height." What kind of +planning time does he have? + +Think of the pluses in your situation. For example, although you fall faster and +faster for the first fifteen seconds or so, you soon reach "terminal +velocity"—the point at which atmospheric drag resists gravity's acceleration in +a perfect standoff. Not only do you stop speeding up, but because the air is +thickening as you fall, you actually begin to slow down. With every foot that +you drop, you are going slower and slower. + +There's more. When parachutists focus on a landing zone, sometimes they become +so fascinated with it that they forget to pull the ripcord. Since you probably +have no ripcord, "target fixation" poses no danger. Count your blessings. + +Think of others who have gone before you. Think of Vesna Vulovic, a flight +attendant who in 1972 fell 33,000 feet in the tail of an exploded DC-9 jetliner; +she landed in snow and lived. Vesna knew about molecules. + +Think of Joe Hermann of the Royal Australian Air Force, blown out of his bomber +in 1944 without a parachute. He found himself falling through the night sky amid +airplane debris and wildly grabbed a piece of it. It turned out to be not debris +at all, but rather a fellow flyer in the process of pulling his ripcord. Joe +hung on and, as a courtesy, hit the ground first, breaking the fall of his +savior and a mere two ribs of his own. Joe was not a quitter. Don't you be. + +Think of Nick Alkemade, an RAF tailgunner who jumped from his flaming turret +without a parachute and fell 18,000 feet. When he came to and saw stars +overhead, he lit a cigarette. He would later describe the fall as "a pleasant +experience." Nick's trick: fir trees, underbrush, and snow. + +But in one important regard, Nick is a disappointment. He gave up. As he +plummeted to Germany, he concluded he was going to die and felt "a strange +peace." This is exactly the wrong kind of thinking. It will get you nowhere but +dead fast. You cannot give up and plan aggressively at the same time. + +To conclude, here are some words that might help you avoid such a collapse of +resolve on your way down. + + * "Keep a-goin'." (Frank L. Stanton) + * "Failure is not an option." (Ed Harris, as the guy in Apollo 13 who says, + "Failure is not an option") + * "'Hope' is the thing with feathers + That perches in the soul + And sings the tune without the words + And never stops-at all." (Emily Dickinson) + +Note: A different version of Unplanned Freefall was originally published in +[Modern Humorist](modern_humorist). + +Interested in more information on David Carkeet? Try [this link][david_carkeet]. + +[modern_humorist]: http://www.modernhumorist.com/ +[david_carkeet]: http://www.davidcarkeet.com/