Galley Gossip: What to do when the flight crew yells brace!

You’ve just boarded the airplane, stowed your large bag in the overhead bin, smaller bag completely under the seat in front of you, and taken your seat. As passengers continue to file past you down the aisle, you place those headphones in your ears, crank up the Ipod, and recline your seat way back. This flight is just like all the other flights you’ve been on before. After the safety demo is over, an evil flight attendant comes sauntering down the aisle, stops at your row, and asks you to put your seat back up and turn your Ipod off. When you ignore her, she tells you again, reminding you that anything with an on and off switch needs to be stowed and put away for takeoff. You give her a look. What’s the big deal?

Three minutes after take-off you hear a loud bang. The crew, still strapped into their jumpseats, begins yelling Brace! Brace! Brace! Do you know what to do?

Hopefully you’ll never find yourself in the brace position, but if you are told to brace most likely the flight attendants will stand in the aisle and actually show you the different brace positions, as well as brief you on how to open the emergency exit doors and windows – in case the crew is injured and unable to get to the exit. That’s why it’s always important to look over the briefing card, particularly if you are sitting in an exit row. Because sometimes things happen without warning, like it did for those who crashed into the Hudson River onboard US Airways flight 1549 yesterday. Amazingly everyone onboard survived, including an infant, thanks to the heroic efforts of Captain Chesley B “Sully” Sullenberger and the entire cabin crew who popped opened those doors, inflated the slide / rafts, and commanded the quick evacuation!


  1. Standard brace position (facing the cockpit): Sit as far back in the seat as possible with lap belt low and tight across the hips. Keep feet flat on the floor, out from underneath seat. Rest chin to chest and bend over as far as possible, chest to knees, wrapping your arms around your legs and clasping hands under knees
  2. Standard brace position (facing the tail of the aircraft): Sit as far back in seat as possible and press head against seat back. Keep feet flat on the floor, out from underneath seat. Rest hands on knees or hold onto the seat arm rest.
  3. Pregnant women: Pad stomach area with blankets and pillows. Seat belt should be worn under the stomach, not over. Cross wrists and rest forehead on the back of hands against the seat in front of you
  4. Lap children: Place child in an approved safety seat. If a car seat is unavailable, make sure the seat belt is secured only around the adult. Place child on the seat, between the legs of the adult. Lock arms around the child and bend over child. Infants: provide support to head, neck, and body.

While it’s important to know how to brace, it’s also important to have room to brace. This is why flight attendants ask you to keep your seat backs in the locked and upright position on take-off and landing. When seat backs are upright passengers are able to get out of their row and into the aisle much easier, which makes for a quicker exit. Every second counts when it comes to evacuating an aircraft, particularly one that is sinking in the Hudson river on a snowy day in freezing temperature.

Not only is it important to keep your seat upright, it’s just as important to place all your carry on bags in an overhead bin or completely under the seat in front of you. Again, it makes for a faster evacuation when there aren’t bags blocking the aisles and tripping passengers on their way out the exit doors and windows. This is also why the exit rows must remain clear and why the seats don’t always recline in these rows. So next time I come to your row, the emergency exit row, to brief you on the window exit, it is very important to pay attention. It could just save your life.

Photo courtesy of Derek7272