Surviving Crashes: Seconds Count

The 309 survivors of the Air France crash713614> in Toronto had luck on their side. Everyone on board made it out alive.

And the incident once again put the spotlight on how important it is for passengers to know how to evacuate an airplane.

The Early Show National Correspondent Hattie Kauffman

on the best ways to evacuate a plane, in a simulator where experts study and practice how to get passengers out as quickly as possible in an emergency.

They're not trying to shave off minutes, but seconds. It can be the difference between life and death.

From the outside, the simulator doesn't look like much, just part of the fuselage of an old jetliner. But inside, it's like being on a real plane. The simulator has actual aircraft seats, and is modeled after a Boeing 737.

In an emergency, experts say, passengers should head to the nearest exit, even if it's behind them.

Inside the simulator, cabin safety researcher David Palmerton, who's with the Federal Aviation Administration's Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, advises locating at least two exits when you find your seat. "Passengers really don't pay attention to exit location," he points out. "Knowing where your nearest exit is, is very important. But also knowing where other exits are is very important, because your nearest exit may not be usable."

In addition, "Counting the seat rows is very important, in the event you had smoke in the cabin.

"Frequent flyers think all airplanes are the same, so they think the exits are in the same location, which they're not. (Different models of aircraft) are really different. A lot of people just don't think airplane accidents are survivable, so they don't think they need to know."

But, he continues, aircraft incidents are "very survivable," if you move fast.