[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/TRAVEL/06/30/air.crash.survivors/art.crash.afp.gi.jpg caption="Part of a United Airlines DC-10 lies next to the runway in Sioux City, Iowa, after the plane crashed in July 1989."]
Reports of a lone child having survived Tuesday's crash of a Yemenia Airways flight in the Indian Ocean have people wondering: How does anyone survive a plane crash?
"I just don't think there's any pattern to survivability. It's just luck of the draw and depends on how the plane goes in," said aviation expert John Eakin, head of Air Data Research in Helotes, Texas.
Not counting Tuesday's disaster, there have been 12 airliner crashes since 1970 that yielded a sole survivor, according to data compiled by Dr. Todd Curtis, director of the Airsafe.com Foundation. Five of those survivors were minors and four were crew members, accounting for 75 percent of the total.
"I can't figure out for the life of me why crew members and children tend to be disproportionate in these sole-survivor events," Curtis said.
One factor favoring flight crew members is their location in the sturdy cockpit and proximity to windows, he said. Flight attendants often use shoulder harnesses when they are seated, aviation writer David Noland added.
Where one is seated is a factor only in that it helps to be far from the point of impact, Eakin said.
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