Sullenberger on surviving a plane crash: "You have power to save your life"

(CBS News) Officials say Asiana Flight 214 was traveling "significantly below" the speed it was supposed to be at while landing when it crashed onto a runway in San Francisco on Saturday. Of the 307 people on board, all but two survived. And of out of 182 people injured, only six are still listed as "critical."

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Photos show a scene from which one might think there was little chance for survival -- but as Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger pointed out Monday on "CBS This Morning," advancements in aviation safety get credit for saving lives in this incident.

"Public perception has not caught up with the advances we've made in aviation in 20 or 30 years," Sullenberger -- the pilot whose name became synonymous with plane crash survival with his "Miracle on the Hudson" landing -- said on "CBS This Morning." "People just don't know how many things we've done that, in aggregate, add up to make a huge difference. Stronger passenger seats to protect you in a crash. Better materials that are not going to be as flammable or create many toxic fumes. Better fire-fighting techniques, many things that together mean that most crashes are very survivable."

Sullenberger, a CBS News aviation and safety analyst, continued, "So if there's a take-away it's probably this: For those who think that there's no reason to pay attention to the safety briefing card or listen to the demonstration because we're all going to perish anyway, that's simply not true. That's wrong. When you get on an airplane, the best thing to do is to learn where the exits are, how they operate, count the number of rows -- those kinds of things. You have the power to save your life, and it works."

For more on advancements in engineering and plane safety, watch Terrell Brown's full report below.

The average traveler, Sullenberger said, can learn from the Asiana crash that your chances are "very good" for survival in a crash like this. "The total energy is not huge," he said. "It's in a landing configuration, you're close to the ground, you're going relatively slowly. The airplane's structure is strong enough to protect you long enough that you can evacuate."

He continued, "Airplanes are certified, they're designed and tested to make sure that everyone can be evacuated in 90 seconds in a darkened hangar with only half the exits usable. So the cabin crew are very important. They constantly train and prepare for your safety, but it's your responsibility to know how to get to safety."

For Sullenberger's full interview, watch the video above.

  • Amanda Cochran

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