How Far Can You Fall and Still Survive?

You’re on a plane and you’re bored. You stare out the window at the clouds, and suddenly you find yourself wondering what would happen if you opened the emergency exit and jumped. Is death certain, or would you wind up with a broken bone or two and a free ride to the closest mental institution? Serbian flight attendant Vesna Vulović fell 33,000 feet in 1972 and lived to tell about it — once she awakened from her 27-day coma. We know for sure that a person can survive a fall of at least 20,000 feet. That’s how far up Alan Magee, a World War II pilot, was when he had to abandon his plane without a parachute. He crashed through a glass roof that likely helped spread out the impact. That's because if you can make the landing time longer, the force needed to stop you is smaller. From one millisecond to three is three times longer, three times less force needed for the same change in momentum. Other survivors have plummeted into snow, trees, or something that can better absorb the landing. The other major factor is slowing your descent. The “flying squirrel” position — body splayed out — is preferred over falling feet or head first. Drop a pen off the Empire State Building straight down and it could kill someone, but drop it sideways, spinning end over end, and it probably wouldn't. So, what’s the highest fall someone can survive? Once terminal velocity — 120mph for an average-sized person — is reached, it doesn’t really matter whether you throw another 5,000 or 10,000 feet on top. You’re not going to fall any faster. Start too high up and the lower atmospheric pressure means your blood might start to boil. That’s believed to happen at around 63,000 feet, which is why NASA mandates pressure suits starting at 50,000 feet, just to be on the safe side. So, falling just under 63,000 feet is survivable…….in theory. Up to 100,000 if you wake up after passing out and if your blood doesn’t boil…..and if you don’t impact something.