In 1895, in the Indian Territory that became Oklahoma, a teenage gang of black and mixed-raced boys went on a two-week spree of committing horrible crimes against white settlers.
Named for their leader, 18-year-old Rufus Buck, the gang had a total of five members. Sam Sampson and Maoma July were both Creek Indians. The brothers Lewis and Lucky Davis were Creek freedmen. Buck was the son of a black woman and Creek Indian father. All of them had been apprehended on minor offenses and served time in the Fort Smith jail prior to their crime spree that summer. The rumored cause for the spree was that Buck “boasted that his outfit would make a record that would sweep all the other gangs of the territory into insignificance.”The gang began building up a small stockpile of weapons while staying in Okmulgee, Oklahoma.
It started on July 28, 1895, when they shot and killed Deputy Marshal John Garrett near Okmulgee. On their way from that murder, they abducted and raped a Mrs. Wilson. They killed Gus Chambers when he resisted the gang’s theft of his horses. They then robbed a stockman, taking his clothing and boots and fired at him as he fled naked. Two days later the gang raped Rosetta Hansen while they held her husband at bay with Winchesters.
The gang was finally apprehended, brought to Fort Smith and convicted in a rape trial. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court which upheld the verdict, and the gang was to die together. They were hanged on July 1, 1896 at 1 pm at Fort Smith
Rufus Buck [Founder – 1895-1896] 07/01/1896) – Hanged, Ft. Smith, AR
Lewis Davis [member – 1895-1896] 07/01/1896) – Hanged, Ft. Smith, AR
Lukey Davis [member – 1895-1896] 07/01/1896) – Hanged, Ft. Smith, AR
Maoma July [member – 1895-1896] 07/01/1896) – Hanged, Ft. Smith, AR
Sam Sampson [member – 1895-1896] 07/01/1896) – Hanged, Ft. Smith, AR
Most men hanged in Fort Smith spent the morning of their executions deep in prayer or saying goodbye to friends and family. At least one member of the Buck Gang had more pressing concerns on his mind. That morning the execution was set for one in the afternoon. Immediately, Lucky Davis, a gang member, objected, saying he wanted to be hanged at ten in the morning so his body could be taken home on the “Cannon Ball” at 11:30. “Rufus Buck [then] said that if he were hanged at an early hour he would subjected to the inconvenience of several hours delay” before his body started home, and this would annoy him. Rufus and the three other gang members, including Lucky’s brother, sided together against him. Finally the gang decided to allow Marshal Crump to determine the time, which he set for one o’clock. At that point Lucky suggested that he might be hanged by himself, but Crump refused.
The execution proceeded at one o’clock with little incident. The Buck Gang were the only men to die on the gallows in Fort Smith for rape.
Timeline for the Rufus Buck Gang (1895 1896)
In the end, there were four killings and numerous incidents.
Exact dates are a bit hard to come by, but here is the essence of their 13-day reign of terror…
07/30/1895 – U.S. Deputy Marshal John Garrett, Killed
07/31/1895 – rape and robbery
Ben Callahan beating; the gang taking Callahan’s boots, money, and saddle
Killing of a negro boy walking on the road
Killing travelers for their horse and property
Robbing of the Country Stores of West and J. Norrberg at Orket, Oklahoma
08/04/1895 – rapes involving the death of some victims
08/08/1895 – capture of the gang by an Indian-White posse
07/01/1896) – All hanged together at Ft. Smith, AR
Alcatraz is known worldwide for being the most secure prison on the face of the earth. It was deemed impossible to escape from since its opening in 1868. Over the years, around 36 inmates had attempted to escape in the past, but none had actually survived the venture. However, this all changed on June 1962, when a group of three men plunged into the Watters of the San Fransisco Bay on their route to escape a prison referred to as, “The Rock”. Here’s how this seemingly impossible task occurred and here are the three masterminds behind the escape. You’ll be surprised to find some facts that were left out by the film based on this occurrence.
1.Frank Lee Morris
Frank Lee Morris was known as a mastermind. He can only be described as cunning, skilled, and highly intelligent. He was orphaned by the age of 11, and so he jumped from foster home to foster home and learned to be independent and take care of himself. Along with those skills, Morris was also known to be a troublemaker, being convicted of his first crime at the age of 13. It seemed that he had been destined for greatness, but not in the way everyone expected. His name went down in history for being the ringleader of the Great Escape from Alcatraz.
2.Not His First Rodeo
As an adult, Frank Lee Morris served prison time in multiple states, and he eventually landed in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, known as “Alcatraz of the South.” Although the name sounds daunting, it seems that Morris wasn’t frightened of this nickname in the least, in fact Morris had something quite impressive in store for them. Frank lee Morris was serving 10 years in prison for bank robbery and then did the unimaginable, he managed to escape! Morris was on the run for a year until he was caught while committing robbery…..again. It was decided that the crook would be sent to a prison with higher security, Alcatraz.
With any good escape or plan, you need a team. While in Alcatraz, Frank Lee Morris found a team. The team consisted of two brothers named John and Clarence Anglin, and a man known as Allen West. The brothers had been born in Georgia and their family had moved to Florida for work. The parents of the brothers were seasonal farm workers, going wherever they were needed. Every June, the entire family made up of 13 children would go north for cherry picking.
4.The Anglin Brothers Bond
John and Clarence Anglin were described to be “thick as thieves” while growing up, and even more so as they got older. Their family would go north for cherry-picking season, occasionally going as far north as Michigan. It was during these times that the brothers would swim in the waters of Lake Michigan and were described to be very skilled swimmers. Looks like this skill would certainly come in handy for the duo. As adults, they began robbing banks together until they were finally caught and arrested for robbery in 1956.
5. The Group Forms
During their time at Atlanta Penitentiary, the Anglin brothers tried to escape prison numerous times, resulting in them being sent to Alcatraz. It was there that they met Frank Lee Morris, described as the mastermind behind the group. Together, along with another inmate named Allen West, the group of four had amassed a lot of experience in escaping prison. It was from there that they began hatching a plan to pull off the impossible feat of escaping from “The Rock.”
6. The Plan
The escape plan was simple, but the means to do it seemed impossible and it required the coordination of an entire team to pull off. It wasn’t the first time prisoners had attempted to escape from Alcatraz before, but this would be different. None of the other inmates had successfully pulled off the plans, and out of the dozens that attempted to escape, 23 were caught, six were shot, two drowned and another two are listed as “missing or presumed drowned.”
7. It Begins
All four of the members of the group had served time at the Atlanta Penitentiary, so it might be possible that all of them knew each other from there. It is known that John and Clarence Anglin knew Frank Lee Morris from Atlanta. The four men had cells right near each other during their time in Alcatraz, and they had plenty of time to devise a master plan to get out of Dodge. The plan would take all the courage the members could muster along with any resource they could get their hands on.
8. Collecting The Resources
Luckily enough, Alcatraz wasn’t just a prison, it was a factory as well. The inmates worked and so there was a substantial amount of resources around. The prison served the US military to make furniture, clothes and shoes. The group of four was also lucky because they were among the very few criminals in Alcatraz that were incarcerated for non-violent crimes. This meant that they were a bit more under the radar and the prison guards didn’t pay much attention to them.
9. The Items
The gang began to put their plan into action. The plan was extremely complex and even ingenious. Not only were they going to escape and do the impossible, they were also going to leave behind human-like dummies. They would also have to think of a way to get off the island once they were out of the prison and avoid any guards. Any attempt to escape would be met with bullets.
10. The Decoys
The team members were all in charge of their own responsibilities. The Anglin brothers were in charge of making dummy heads to leave behind in the gang’s empty beds. They created these heads out of soap wax, toilet paper, and real human hair that was stolen from the barber shop in Alcatraz. Morris was in charge of creating an accordion-like-vessel to inflate the raft and life vests.
11. The Dig
The team had to make tools to dig out of their cells and unscrew the bolts on the vents. They were able to make picks and wrenches out of items such as spoons from the cafeteria and wood from the workshop. From 5:30 PM until 9 PM everyday they would work at chipping away holes large enough to crawl through. They took out the vents in their cells, and then used the picks to chisel the holes larger.
12. Good News
Luckily for the gang, the prison was already old and crumbling in many ways. Saltwater ran through the pipes for showering and washing dishes which ended up destroying the pipes and leaked into the prison walls. Over time, the salt water eroded the cement, making it crumble. The water was also a bit warm so that the prisoners wouldn’t get used to the freezing water like the kind in the San Francisco Bay.
13. The Noise
Morris would play the accordion when possible and the noise was enough to cover up the sound of chipping away at cement. Behind the cells, was an unguarded utility corridor with pipes running up and down.
14. A Jungle Gym
The utility corridor can basically be described as an unguarded jungle gym. If they could get their cells wide enough, they would be able to climb up three floors to the roof. Once they get to the top, they would have to get one of the large shafts open to get onto the roof. They found that many of the shafts were cemented shut, but they eventually were able to get one open using their wrench.
15. The Big Squeeze
By the time May of 1962 came around, both of the Anglin brothers and Morris had broken through the walls in their cells.The holes were big enough for them to squeeze their bodies through, which was all they needed. They made a raft and life vests by gluing and stitching raincoats together. They used over 50 raincoats to create the items, which were absolutely necessary.
16. The Signal
Since everything was ready, all they needed to wait for was Allen West to finish his escape hole and the entire gang would be ready to go at any moment. However, when the signal came, the plan didn’t exactly work out as they thought.On June 11th, 1962, Allen West gave the signal to the other members that he had dug his hole large enough to make through.
17. The Plan Sets Into Action
After lights out that same day, the gang set their plan to escape into action. There was concern whether any of them would make it out alive. They were prepared to do anything to get out, even if it meant risking their lives. After the light went out that night, they moved their decoys and get out of their cells.
18. The Plan Goes Awry
Although the Anglin brothers and Morris got out of their cells easily, it seemed that Allen West was having some difficulty. Although he informed the group that his hole was big enough to get out, he seemed to misjudge the size and ease of making the hole bigger. Although Frank Lee Morris tried to help West, the cement didn’t seem to budge. At 9:30 PM, Morris asked for West to pass him a glass of water. They then came to the conclusion that West had to be left behind.
19. One Left Behind
Although leaving a member behind was not an easy decision, the group wasn’t left with many options. They couldn’t make too much noise trying to widen the hole in West’s cell, because it would have drawn attention of the guards. It also might’ve helped since with one less person, the raft would’ve been significantly lighter. The group of three men then started their climb up 30 feet of plumbing in the utility corridor.
The three made it to the cell house roof rather easily and they continued to cross at least 100 feet of rooftop and then started their descent. The three climbed down 50 feet of piping on the side of the building to the ground.They landed on the ground close to the shower area and were able to sneak past the guards. They managed to outsmart the guards and made their way to shore where they stopped to inflate their raft and vests.
21. The Alarm
This was thee last time anyone ever saw Frank Lee Morris, John or Clarence Anglin again. They set off on their raft at 11:30 at night and weren’t discovered to be missing until the next morning. The next morning, the residents of Alcatraz were woken up to blaring sirens, and many of them were confused.
22. Finally Free
Allen West had been left behind, but he hadn’t given up. He continued to work on getting the hole in his cell large enough to squeeze through, and once he did he went on to follow the other three. He climbed to the rooftop but when he got there, the others had already left. He had a decision whether to swim to safety, which could kill him, or go back to his cell.
Allen West returned to his cell and waited until the morning. West cooperated with the authorities and told them everything that had happened. According to him, the others were headed to Angel Island and once there they planned on stealing a car, some clothes and then separating.
24. The Issue
The issue with this statement was that no such car robbery had been reported in the area. They figured the three had either landed somewhere else, or Morris and the brothers never made it. West also told authorities that the whole scheme had been his idea and that he was the mastermind behind the escape. The FBI was called in and a formal investigation was opened up.
25. Freezing Waters
After searching the waters, no bodies were ever found, although personal belongings were found floating in the waters the next day. The temperature of the waters during the night got to be 50 to 54 degrees. Experts say that a human male could have survived around 20 minutes in the cold waters before body functions would begin to deteriorate.
26. A Cold Case
The FBI investigation closed in 1979, 17 years after the escape. The results were that the inmates likely drowned in the in the San Francisco Bay. Back in 2009, the Deputy US Marshal told NPR that, “there’s an active warrant, and the Marshals Service doesn’t give up looking for people.” Luckily enough, there was more to be heard from the people who managed to escape Alcatraz.
27. Calculating The Currents
About a month after the escape, a Norwegian freighter reported seeing a body 17 miles from the famous Golden Gate Bridge. It was said that the body had been wearing similar clothing to that of an Alcatraz prisoner. Unfortunately the report was filed late and the body was never found. In 2014, researches began to calculate that if they had left at midnight that night, the water currents would’ve actually worked in their favor, and they probably survived.
28. Christmas Card
In 2015, the History Channel created a documentary that presented audiences with more evidence that the brothers had successfully escaped. The family had received signed Christmas cards and the handwriting was confirmed to belong to the Anglin brothers. However, the date of delivery could not be determined. the Anlgin family also had a photograph of the two brothers taken I Brazil in 1975. When forensic experts analyzed the photo, they concluded that it was likely the brothers.
Another piece of evidence about the escape was a deathbed confession by one of the Anglin siblings, Robert. He confessed that he had been in contact with his two brothers from 1963 to 1987, but eventually lost contact with them.Members of the Anglin family have not tried to search for their missing siblings in Brazil because the case still remains an open investigation. If they were found, the punishment would be very severe.
30. Final Hint
To this day, it’s uncertain whether Frank Lee Morris, John Anglin and Clarence Anglin survived the escape from Alcatraz but many seem to believe it is possible.In January 2018, the FBI was forced to reopen the investigation after the San Francisco Police Department received a letter. The letter said, “My name is John Anglin. I escaped from Alcatraz in June 1962 with my brother Clarence and Frank Morris. I’m 83 years old and in bad shape. I have cancer. Yes we all made it that night but barely!
For many, summer and drinking go hand-in-hand – it’s the season for pints in beer gardens and wine in the park.
The problem is, a lot of us are stuck ‘enjoying’ these drinks with red, puffy eyes and our noses streaming into our glasses, thanks to the ultimate killjoy, hay fever.
The seasoned hay fever sufferer will make sure they’re stocked up on anti-histamines way before pollen starts to fill the spring breeze, but what you might not know is how alcohol can affect hay fever, and which types are best for it.
How does alcohol affect hay fever?
It’s not actually the alcohol itself that affects your allergies, but rather different substances found in alcoholic drinks, containing histamine and sulphites, which cause the symptoms of hay fever.
According to Livestrong, histamine tightens lung muscles, relaxes muscles in blood vessels and speeds up muscle movement in the intestines, while also increasing mucus production and causing inflammation. Sound familiar?
High levels of histamine tend to be found in darker, fermented alcoholic drinks, like wine and beer, which means that for some sufferers as much as a few sips can bring on these symptoms.
Stay in the clear
While no alcohol is going to make your hay fever actively better, Asthma UK say there are drinks you can choose which will stop you from suffering more, namely clear alcohols like gin and vodka.
Gin does not naturally contain any sulphites, and many vodkas are also clear of them, meaning a G&T or a vodka lemonade might be your best bet for a rooftop tipple. Given gin and tonic is practically the perfect summer drink, we can’t really complain.
If you’re a champagne-loving hay fever sufferer, we’ve got some very bad news for you – there’s nothing as bad for your allergies in the world of food and drink than a glass of bubbly.
Champagne contains around 84mg of histamine per 125ml glass. When you compare that with the next worst, red wine, at 15mg for a large glass, you’ve got a pretty strong argument for saving the Moët for the winter months.
Beer varies significantly by type, but a typical lager is around 14mg, while white is significantly better for you.
Will food affect my hay fever too?
Unfortunately the answer here is yes. Tofu, sauerkraut and cured meats are all particularly high in histamine, as well as blue cheese and parmesan.
Canned fish, aubergine, citrus fruits and ketchup are also all worth avoiding if you’re a particularly bad sufferer.
How’s the pollen count this year?
Not to bombard you with yet more bad news but, well, here’s some more bad news: Professor Stephen Durham, a professor of Allergy and Respiratory Medicine at Imperial College London told LBC earlier today that we can expect a particularly rough year when it comes to sneezing our brains out through our noses.
“The tree pollen season is starting later this season after the cold spring delayed germination. The warm weather is going to bring on high pollen counts,” he said.
“It seems that there’s been a sudden burst due to the warm weather and we get this late germination and pollen release at once.”
Rather than simply being low in histamine, some foods are actually rich in antihistamines, which help to block or disrupt histamine receptors – this is why many people take antihistamine tablets for hayfever. Foods that are rich in flavonoids such as quercetin, vitamin C or beta-carotene can help to block histamine and reduce inflammation.
Our top anti-histamine foods include:
Garlic – this is a rich source of quercitin and helps to support the immune system
Ginger – this is a popular choice for reducing hayfever symptoms, whether as a tea or added to foods and smoothies
Onions – these are another good source of quercetin and vitamin C
Blueberries – this superfood is packed full of vitamin Cand quercetin
Nettle – you can buy this as a powder to add to smoothies or you could try nettle tea
A smoothie is a great way to get more of these natural anti-histamine foods into your diet. Try a delicious hayfever-blasting smoothie, containing blueberries, strawberries, honey and ginger.
Global interest in climate change – its effects on the environment and society more broadly – is probably at an all time high. Countries around the world, are increasingly acknowledging the shift that’s needed from a fossil fuel-driven economy to one that is sustainable, green and attempts to mitigate climate change.
Rolls-Royce expects to be producing solely electric cars by 2040, as the British marque pledges to ditch the internal combustion engine that is synonymous with its ultra-luxury vehicles. The brand, which currently only offers 12-cylinder petrol engines in its cars, will be “full electric” by 2040 to comply with changes in international rules, chief executive Torsten Müller-Ӧtvӧs told the Financial Times. The UK and France have both promised to ban cars that run without electric power by 2040, but the Rolls-Royce boss believes other markets — such as the US or Middle East — will also follow suit by then. “When you see what happens in Saudi, when you see what happens in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, they are all looking into alternative energy. “Electrification will also happen in these countries, sooner or later.” He added: “We will definitely offer 12-cylinder engines as long as we can, as long as it is legally allowed to offer them.” The company aims to introduce its first electric vehicle within the next 10 years, but will phase out its existing engines over several decades. Carmakers all over the world are working on electric vehicles to meet ever-tightening emissions regulations, particularly in Europe and China.
British motor brand calls time on the petrol engine
For Rolls-Royce, the push towards battery power is driven more by “legal requirements in the markets worldwide” than environmental concerns, Mr Müller-Ӧtvӧs said. “These cars aren’t used extensively, nobody is driving long, long distances, and so the mileage on a Rolls-Royce is lower than the average car would carry . . . But electrification is the future, full stop. You need to prepare yourself for that.” Rolls-Royce, which is owned by BMW, has previously shown a design for a 2040s car that was fully electric and autonomously driven. “Electrification actually fits extremely well with Rolls-Royce because it’s silent, it’s powerful, it’s torquey, so in that sense it’s a very good fit,” he said. While the transition from petrol and diesel-driven cars to battery vehicles is expected to take decades, several governments have set timelines for when they want older vehicles without electric power to be phased out. The UK government will ban the sale of non-electric cars by 2040, as well as some hybrid cars. France will also ban all non-electric cars by then and Germany has indicated it would be open to similar moves. China wants to have a fifth of its new cars powered electrically by 2025 and will require companies operating in the market to sell a proportion of electric vehicles. Mr Müller-Ӧtvӧs was speaking as Rolls-Royce unveiled its first sports utility vehicle, the £210,000 Cullinan, named after the largest diamond ever discovered. He added that the vehicle launch was a “seminal moment” for the brand which would also increase its appeal among female drivers.
BMW Motorrad Concept Link’ uses electric battery packs, and even features a reverse gear
Has a touchscreen dashboard, and can be paired with a new smart motorcycles jacket that can change settings on the bike with a swipe on its sleeve
Can integrate with online calenders to automatically set destinations, and project directions onto windscreen
BMW has super-charged the race towards zero-emission biking by unveiling its latest concept electric motorcycle.
The BMW Motorrad Concept Link uses radical electric battery packs stored in its base, features a reverse gear to make parking easier, and a seat that adjusts itself to suit each rider’s bottom.
Its touchscreen dashboard can even be connected to the rider’s online calendar so it always knows where it needs to go every time it is started.
BMW claims the concept is “extremely fast” though designers have not yet revealed stats to back up the claim.
Concept electric motorcycle could kickstart new era of biking
The German automotive superpower hopes the concept could kickstart a new era of motorcycle design.
BMW Motorrad’s Alexander Buckan said: “The technical realities of electric drive – such as the flat energy packs in the underfloor and the compact drive on the rear wheel – allowed us to create a highly distinctive design which shapes a new segment.
“The resulting expressive power of the vehicle is absolutely new for BMW Motorrad and breaks with all conventional viewing patterns.”
BMW says the concept blends fast acceleration and easy handling.
Due to its low overall height, getting on is easy too, from the side or even from the back.
A reverse gear ensures that it is easy to manoeuvre, making it ideal to park in tight city spaces.
Electric motorcycle projects data onto windshield
Instead of a classic instrument cluster, speed, navigation and battery information is projected onto the windshield directly in the rider’s field of vision.
Secondary information is displayed on a panel below the handlebars.
Programmable, touch-enabled buttons on the handlebars allow the rider to access functions without having to loosen grip.
The concept is the latest in a series of vehicles designed by BMW to showcase the future of transport.
It’s the benchmark. The yardstick. The trendsetter. And that makes each generation of VW Camper very important. The iconic splitties and bays of the mid 20th century went on to bear new generations of cult-creators and it comes to the 21st century and the – slightly reserved – T5 and T6.
Incredibly well respected, the most modern camper is still the epitome of a usable motorhome – the vehicle you can use day to day to pop to the shops and do a school run, yet still go for a week away in the far reaches of Unreachistan. It’s compact enough to go under the radar when exploring single-track roads and not disrespect the white lines of the supermarket car park, yet spacious enough to support human life.
The next generation, the T7, is sure to take those traits and bring them even further into the future. At the moment it’s hard to hear much from VW itself (just watch, the day this goes live, VW will probably launch a T7…) but plenty of talented designers have had a stab at guessing the style of the next icon, like this T1 Revival from David Obendorfer.
In terms of size and space, the formula works now – so don’t expect T7 to be any greedier with its personal space than the T6. Safety for pedestrians and occupants will be a way to step up so expect more crash and impact protection, more autonomy and sophisticated driver aids.
In terms of powertrain it’d be prudent to look to alternative fuels soonish, and expect the T7 to embrace hybrid power. VW created a ‘Buzz’ with their electric van called, er, I.D BUZZ, and the Bulli and Budd-e concepts, but range anxiety for those attempting to explore the depths of what the world has to offer would probably appreciate a petrol engine – there aren’t many fast charging docks available in the third world – and although diesel probably makes sense it would be bold of VW to make it the only option and cower from the backlash as everyone reminds them of their emission issues of the past few years.
Having said all that, it’ll probably be the practicality and looks that get it off the forecourt. Practicality is almost a given – layouts have been well-established since the first camper was proposed in the late ‘40s. The looks, however, are a tricky one. The T7 has to look super cool and yet not alienate purists. This blend of retro style with modern application, thankfully, works very well. VW did it first with the front-engined Beetle in the late ‘90s, and sold bugloads of them. BMW soon jumped on that bandwagon with the MINI, and Fiat whipped up a 500, and the young drivers of Europe practically sold limbs and organs to get them.
Great designs are already popping up from speculators with great graphic designs skills, VW look like they will end up with a sales hit in the T7 unless they somehow manage to cock it up.
How bold will VW go? The T7 could be the most iconic of them all, or it could be the generation that nobody likes to talk about in a few decades’ time.
When the “fasten seat belt” sign flashes on in airplanes, with its familiar accompanying ding, it’s often met with passengers’ equal parts annoyance and resignation, when it’s acknowledged at all. Like, “What? Again? Really? Do I have to …?”
The answer, of course, is yes. You really have to. As mom would say, “it’s for your own good.”
“I think it’s the old, ‘It’s not going to happen to me,’ syndrome,” Richard McSpadden, the executive director of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association‘s Air Safety Institute, says of the typical flyer’s attitude toward buckling up. “Aviation accidents are so rare that people say, ‘What are the odds it’s going to happen to me?’ And I would agree with them that the odds are extremely low.
“But I would then add that even though the odds are low, the consequences of something happening can be pretty significant, even if it’s just a bump in turbulence. If you’re not strapped in right, your head could hit the top of that airplane. That can result in a serious injury [see Now That’s Interesting, below]. And it’s so effortless to strap a seat belt around you.” (That’s true for average-size people anyway.)
A simple lap belt — or even other restraints, like shoulder harnesses — may not be enough to save a life if an airliner drops from the sky from 35,000 feet (10,668 meters), or undergoes a catastrophic mid-air failure. A seat belt wasn’t enough in the tragic death of Jennifer Riordan, who reportedly was wearing her seat belt when a part from a failed engine in a Southwest Airline 737 blew out the window next to her seat on April 17, 2018. She was nearly sucked out of the airplane when the air in the pressurized cabin rushed out of the window.
The rare accidents like that, though, or the more conventional plane-hits-ground type, are not the only reasons for seat belts on airplanes. They’re designed to protect you from the airplane during flight, too.
The Case for Seat Belts
“The reason you must wear a seat belt, flight crew included,” Heather Poole, an American Airlines flight attendant and author, told The Telegraph in 2015, “is because you don’t want the plane coming down on you. People think they’re lifted up in the air during turbulence. The truth is the plane drops. It comes down hard and it comes down fast and that’s how passengers get injured — by getting hit on the head by an airplane.”
Think of it this way: If you’re not wearing a seat belt on an airplane that drops suddenly — which often happens with turbulence — you’re the one at rest. You’ll stay at rest as the plane, very literally, drops out from under you. If you’re strapped in, the seat belt serves as an outside force acting on you, taking you with the plane as it drops and saving you from bonking your head on that overhead bin above you.
“It allows you to stay in place and ride along with the airplane,” McSpadden says. “It’s just that added safety margin that if something unexpected happens, you’re still going to stay with the airplane.”
Are Shoulder Harnesses Better?
A little reasoning might suggest that if a lap belt is good while flying, a shoulder harness — like those in cars and those in smaller so-called general aviation planes — would be even better. Indeed, shoulder belts or harnesses might help, McFadden and others say.
But they would be costly to install, and trickier to get to work correctly on bigger commercial planes, experts say. They’d probably be uncomfortable on longer flights. And wearing shoulder harnesses might meet a lot of resistance from the flying public, too.
“The answer would be, yes, it certainly would help, because it would prevent the movement of the upper torso aggressively in terms of some kind of sudden impact,” McSpadden says. “How you can do that is another question entirely.”
Some wonder whether shoulder belts are needed on commercial airlines, considering lap belts — when they’re used — seem to do the trick. “Clearly for the vertical deceleration [typical] of an airplane crash, the lap belt seems to be the most important restraint,” David King, a trauma surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital, told Time after the July 2013 wreck of Asiana Airlines flight 214 in San Francisco killed three people. (Noted in the official National Transportation Safety Board report of that accident: “The two ejected passengers (one of whom was later rolled over by two firefighting vehicles) were not wearing their seatbelts and would likely have remained in the cabin and survived if they had been wearing them.”)
Ironically, the safety record of commercial airlines may be the overwhelming reason that shoulder harnesses have not been required of large passenger planes. In 2017, no one was killed in a commercial jet airliner incident anywhere in the world, making it the safest year ever for big passenger planes. In its Civil Aviation Safety Review for 2017, which examined accidents on large passenger aircraft, the Dutch aviation consulting firm To70 estimated that there were “0.08 fatal accidents per million flights [in 2017]. That is a rate of one fatal accident for every 12 million flights.”
With a safety record like that, it’s hard to argue that shoulder harnesses would lower the risk of flying enough to offset the costs, the effort and the resistance such a major change would generate.
Lap belts, though? They help. They help a lot. So when flying, it’s probably best to buckle up and stay that way. For your own good.