I have always wondered what the minimal equipment and best strategies would be for an average person to survive as much time as possible in cruise on a standard jetliner. Assume temperature is 20 c.

Would either being at the end or near the body have any effect on time to death? Could they survive by simply holding on? Would they need any form of rope to restrain them?

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    $\begingroup$ "Assume temperature is 20 c" - well, that's a problem, because it's not. The temperature at jet cruise level is very, very cold. About -54 °C at 35,000 feet. See What is the typical temperature of an airliner's hull during flight? for more discussion. $\endgroup$ Jul 28 at 22:40
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    $\begingroup$ time of useful consciousness at 35,000 feet (-54 degrees actual approx temp) without oxygen is 30-60 seconds. 250 - 260 knots of indicated airspeed would make it tough to hold on! $\endgroup$
    – 757toga
    Jul 28 at 23:06
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    $\begingroup$ Best strategy: stay inside. $\endgroup$ Jul 29 at 2:05
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    $\begingroup$ You'd get blown off, pass out shortly after, die from hypoxia and/or hypothermia shortly after that, freeze, then hit the ground partially thawed. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Jul 29 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ Not if you have someone holding you by the belt...en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Airways_Flight_5390 $\endgroup$
    – DJohnM
    Jul 31 at 7:28

A heated suit with helmet, sealed oxygen mask and a beefy restraint.

  • Heated: it's cold up above 30,000 ft, usually below -50°C.
  • Helmet and oxygen mask: he static pressure is still enough if breathing pure oxygen, but at minimum a helmet and sealed mask are needed to be able to face the air stream.
  • Beefy restraint: terminal speed is ~100 knots. That's when the drag (of human facing the stream as jumpers normally do) balances the weight. Airliner is doing at least 250 knots indicated and 2.5 times the indicated speed means over 6.25 times the dynamic pressure.
  • $\begingroup$ Food for thought (it would make an intriguing new question, though one too hypothetical to post): what would be the disruption of air flow above one wing owing to the human there, and (especially considering the narrow margin of 250Kn and 30k feet) would it lead to wing-drop stalling? $\endgroup$ Jul 29 at 6:53

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