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Investigation: Where's The Safest Seat On A Plane?  
User currently offlineGothamspotter From United States of America, joined Jan 2005, 586 posts, RR: 0
Posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 20538 times:

The FAA, NTSB and Boeing all claim that there is no section on a plane that is safer than another. Analysis of the NTSB's own records, however, tells a different story. Popular Mechanics combed through NTSB data from every crash in which there were deaths and survivors since 1971 and for which detailed seating records were available. The analysis reveals that seats behind the trailing edge of the wings were the safest, and seats up front were the least safe.

Full story: http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/air_space/4219452.html

30 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineSpacecadet From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 3630 posts, RR: 12
Reply 1, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 20520 times:

The wing box is the strongest part of any plane, and the front of the plane is usually what hits first in an accident (though not always), so it's not surprising that the rear of the wing box is technically the safest place to sit in an accident.

But I don't think it's really statistically all that significant of a difference. In terms of your chances of actually dying any given time you get on a plane, it's maybe the difference between a 0.000007% chance and a 0.000008% chance. And in some accidents that I know of, those in the wing box area died some pretty terrible deaths - worse than those in the rest of the plane. (Pan Am 103 for example.)



I'm tired of being a wanna-be league bowler. I wanna be a league bowler!
User currently offlineJeffB From United States of America, joined Oct 2003, 98 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 20504 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

In the very last row in the back of the plane. Why? Well... Have you ever heard of a plane backing into a mountain?


(sorry, old joke, couldn't just let it go by)


User currently offlineDeltaAVL From United States of America, joined Mar 2007, 1893 posts, RR: 6
Reply 3, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 20497 times:

It's funny you should mention that, because to this day, the only seat that my mom will sit in is the very last row in the plane. She's always told me it's the safest part and she'd have the best chances of survival sitting there. I suppose she's not too far off base...


"We break, We bend, With hand in hand, When hope is gone, Just hang on." -Guster
User currently offlineUnknownUser From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 20488 times:

I maybe more likely to die in First class than coach, but at least I will be comfy and have my extra leg room while I die!

User currently offlineViscount724 From Switzerland, joined Oct 2006, 25650 posts, RR: 22
Reply 5, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 20467 times:

In photos of many accidents, the only part of the aircraft that seems to survive relatively intact is often the tail, sometimes with at least part of the fuselage attached.

It's ironic that during the propeller era that's where first class passengers were seated. Now, it's passengers paying the cheapest fares who may possibly have the best survival chances at least in some accidents (not sure if there is any data showing a link between seating location and survivability).

One further suggestion: sitting adjacent to a door or emergency exit might help a bit.


User currently offlineMarkHKG From United States of America, joined Dec 2005, 960 posts, RR: 2
Reply 6, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 20452 times:

The safest seat on any aircraft, from a technical standpoint, is the rear-facing flight attendant seat. Typically, this seat is the only seat on a Part 121 aircraft that is rear facing. Fairly sure this study looked only at the passenger seats though.

Also, the study is severely limited at the fact that it appears they only looked at crashes. There have been more than 20 accidents that the study cites in the history of aviation. Think about in-flight fires (AC Flight 797) which did not actually crash, but still resulted in fatalities. In these types of accidents, being in a lower-density class configuration (i.e. first class, being in the front of the aircraft) may save your life, as it will allow you to evacuate faster. (Think Manchester Air Disaster.) Other factors such as being close to an exit may be even more important.

Finally, the study does not discuss the role of brace position use.

The bottom line is that for a specific set of aviation accidents, i.e. crashes, sure, it appears that sitting in back appears to protect you in a crash. That's simple physics. But in the whole breadth of aviation disasters, beside crashes, there truly is no "Safer seat".

Why did Popular Mechanics use the Aloha Airlines pictures? Wasn't actually a crash...and the only death was due to the flight attendant not even being in a seat...



Release your seat-belts and get out! Leave everything!
User currently offlineStarlionblue From Greenland, joined Feb 2004, 17068 posts, RR: 66
Reply 7, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 20429 times:

Quoting Gothamspotter (Thread starter):
The FAA, NTSB and Boeing all claim that there is no section on a plane that is safer than another. Analysis of the NTSB's own records, however, tells a different story. Popular Mechanics combed through NTSB data from every crash in which there were deaths and survivors since 1971 and for which detailed seating records were available. The analysis reveals that seats behind the trailing edge of the wings were the safest, and seats up front were the least safe.

Please note the first word in "Popular Mechanics".

There isn't enough data to support any such conclusion based on statistics. If we had 30 or more crashes for each aircraft type AND type of crash, the data might be somewhat reliable. Bundling a runway overrun with a controlled flight into terrain and a ditching yields poor statistics since the mechanics involved are quite different. Also, there are so many random factors like terrain, tree density, elevation, temperature, proximity of buildings, wet or dry runway...

What the data does support is the thesis that flying is very safe and that you would be better off worrying about other things than which seat is most survivable.



"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
User currently offlineBoogyJay From France, joined May 2005, 490 posts, RR: 4
Reply 8, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 20387 times:

The rear part of an airplane is often not damaged, or at least less damaged than the front part. There are 2 reasons for that : 1/ the front often crashes first and takes most of the crash loads and 2/ the rear part is less pron to fire as the tanks are farther forward.

Tails very often remain fairly intact : look at the recent JJ 3054 in CGH, or Helios B737 in ATH :


View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Kostas Iatrou



the list could be endless...

That's a good reason why FAR 25.1459 about the Flight Recorders requires that ... :

"Each nonejectable record container must be located and mounted so as to minimize the probability of container rupture resulting from crash impact and subsequent damage to the record from fire. In meeting this requirement the record container must be located as far aft as practicable"


User currently offlinePetertenthije From Netherlands, joined Jul 2001, 3376 posts, RR: 12
Reply 9, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 20361 times:

You know the C in C-class stands for crumple zone? Well, perhaps not officially but in most cases quite correct anyway.


Attamottamotta!
User currently offlineEHHO From Bulgaria, joined Dec 2005, 815 posts, RR: 7
Reply 10, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 20356 times:

Quoting JeffB (Reply 2):
In the very last row in the back of the plane. Why? Well... Have you ever heard of a plane backing into a mountain?

Not that far off the truth actually, remember the FV IL-86 that crashed shortly after takeoff in SVO in 2002, due to a faulty horizontal stabilizer? Two of the 16 crew members aboard the repositioning flight to LED survived because they were in the tail section that disintegrated from the rest of the fuselage upon impact. One of the two wasn't even seriously injured.



"Get your facts first. Then you may distort them as much as you please" -- Mark Twain
User currently offlinePoitin From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 11, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 20338 times:

With few exceptions, the majority of survivors are in the last few rows because it tends to break off and stay in one piece or it is the last part of the airframe to impact and so has been slowed down by the carnage in the front. However, I think the safest place in an plane crash is someplace else, as far away as possible.

User currently offlineSJCRRPAX From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 12, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 20287 times:

Quoting DeltaAVL (Reply 3):
It's funny you should mention that, because to this day, the only seat that my mom will sit in is the very last row in the plane. She's always told me it's the safest part and she'd have the best chances of survival sitting there. I suppose she's not too far off base...

When someone drives her in a car, does she take the middle seat in the rear, because statistically that is the safest seat. The right front passenger seat is the most dangerous because the drivers tends to avoid obstacles on their side. Just pointing out that if she does not do that in a car she is not being consistent, as she is probably 100x times more likely to be injured in a car accident.


User currently offlineAlexPorter From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 13, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 20278 times:

And the regional crashes get ignored again, because nobody ever flies on regional planes (tell that to people from Ohio, for one): The article ends with "There hasn't been a single U.S. commercial jet passenger fatality — front cabin or rear — in more than four years."

So, never mind the Delta Connection crash in Lexington, the US Airways Express crash in Charlotte, the American Connection crash in Missouri... (granted, the last two weren't actually jet fatalities, but the Delta Connection one was a CRJ-200. I believe that crash in August 2006 ended the nearly five-year streak since American 587 in November 2001.


User currently offlineStarlionblue From Greenland, joined Feb 2004, 17068 posts, RR: 66
Reply 14, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 20239 times:

Quoting AlexPorter (Reply 13):
And the regional crashes get ignored again, because nobody ever flies on regional planes (tell that to people from Ohio, for one): The article ends with "There hasn't been a single U.S. commercial jet passenger fatality — front cabin or rear — in more than four years."

So, never mind the Delta Connection crash in Lexington, the US Airways Express crash in Charlotte, the American Connection crash in Missouri... (granted, the last two weren't actually jet fatalities, but the Delta Connection one was a CRJ-200. I believe that crash in August 2006 ended the nearly five-year streak since American 587 in November 2001.

So true. I will again point out the first word in "Popular Mechanics".



"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
User currently onlineSEPilot From United States of America, joined Dec 2006, 6957 posts, RR: 46
Reply 15, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 20239 times:

Seeing as the absolute safest way to get from point A to point B is by scheduled airliner, I'll worry more about being struck by lightning. It's much more likely to happen to me than being killed by an airliner crash. In fact, I probably have as great a chance of being killed in my car by an airplane crashing into it as being killed on a full-sized (i.e. DC-9 or larger) airliner.


The problem with making things foolproof is that fools are so doggone ingenious...Dan Keebler
User currently offlineStarlionblue From Greenland, joined Feb 2004, 17068 posts, RR: 66
Reply 16, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 20221 times:

Quoting SEPilot (Reply 15):
Seeing as the absolute safest way to get from point A to point B is by scheduled airliner, I'll worry more about being struck by lightning. It's much more likely to happen to me than being killed by an airliner crash. In fact, I probably have as great a chance of being killed in my car by an airplane crashing into it as being killed on a full-sized (i.e. DC-9 or larger) airliner.

So true. In fact, right after posting this I'll run outside in the thunderstorm and hold my cell phone over my head. Big grin



"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
User currently offlineFlybyguy From United States of America, joined Jun 2004, 1801 posts, RR: 1
Reply 17, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 20103 times:

Quoting JeffB (Reply 2):
In the very last row in the back of the plane. Why? Well... Have you ever heard of a plane backing into a mountain?


(sorry, old joke, couldn't just let it go by)



Quoting BoogyJay (Reply 8):
The rear part of an airplane is often not damaged, or at least less damaged than the front part. There are 2 reasons for that : 1/ the front often crashes first and takes most of the crash loads and 2/ the rear part is less pron to fire as the tanks are farther forward.

Tails very often remain fairly intact : look at the recent JJ 3054 in CGH, or Helios B737 in ATH :

 checkmark  You guys are on the money... I suppose that it comes as no surprise that aeronautical engineers fix the flight data and flight voice recorders to the empennage of the aircraft as opposed to any other region within an aircraft for those very reasons.

Quoting Spacecadet (Reply 1):
The wing box is the strongest part of any plane, and the front of the plane is usually what hits first in an accident (though not always), so it's not surprising that the rear of the wing box is technically the safest place to sit in an accident.

Wing Box? It's the best place on the plane if you want experience a first hand barbeque. Many wires, electro-mechanical and hydraulic equipment within the vicinity of the belly and wing fuel tanks, can't make this area the safest section of the plane. Certainly, during a crash landing with slow fire propagation people in the wingbox area can use the ample emergency exits in that area with relative ease. However, in high impact crashes I suspect areas with the greatest quantities of fuel burn quickly and violently.



"Are you a pretender... or a thoroughbred?!" - Professor Matt Miller
User currently offlineSwisser From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 18, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 11 hours ago) and read 20002 times:

Airbus states that the least risk area is at the R4 door, but that is in the case when you move a bomb...
In the middle of the aircraft you have a fuel tank, engines sucking you in the intake or burning your skin off just aft of the wing, and in the back the jetblast is still dangerous, for engines on wing mounted aircraft.
The front is then very prone to break off, roll over or crunch and not be able to provide a slide.

From my point of view (the FA seat) I just have to pull the lever to actually get out (if I was not there to safe the pax *sses),
So maybe that is the safest seat if you exclude the duty's attached on the seat!
On the other hand you might get lucky if the fuselage breaks near your seat, so you can "walk out"!


User currently offlineJbernie From Australia, joined Jan 2007, 880 posts, RR: 0
Reply 19, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 10 hours ago) and read 19965 times:

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 7):
There isn't enough data to support any such conclusion based on statistics. If we had 30 or more crashes for each aircraft type AND type of crash, the data might be somewhat reliable.

On one hand, you can only go off the data you can gather, on the other hand, with way so many variables involved it is next to impossible to really replicate anything ..let alone cost effective to try it. A plane crashing into a river in mid summer has a better chance of survival than the same exact crash in winter when the water is at or below freezing, you can survive the crash but the environment you are in may not be survivable even for someone who was not in a crash, ie just fell through ice.

The Mythbusters had on one episode the story of I believe a Russian FA who was in the rear of a plane and survived a crash of some description, given the testing they did it was a drop from some height, can not recall if it was a mid air break up though. They went out and cut up the tail of a jet, they were weight limited which made it harder to get accuracy and dropped the section from a decent height to see what would happen. Their results weren't that inspiring, but in saying that, how do you replicate what are in effect "one off" accidents?

I think this episode had them dropping Buster from the helicopter strapped to an emergency chute/raft and he floated down quite gently. Amazing stuff to watch.


User currently offlineDeltaAVL From United States of America, joined Mar 2007, 1893 posts, RR: 6
Reply 20, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 10 hours ago) and read 19944 times:

Quoting SJCRRPAX (Reply 12):
When someone drives her in a car, does she take the middle seat in the rear, because statistically that is the safest seat. The right front passenger seat is the most dangerous because the drivers tends to avoid obstacles on their side. Just pointing out that if she does not do that in a car she is not being consistent, as she is probably 100x times more likely to be injured in a car accident.

I know that, and I've told her a million times about how much safer the airlines are than cars, but she still prefers the back row.

I've never heard of anyone afraid of riding in a car, but fear of flying is rather common.



"We break, We bend, With hand in hand, When hope is gone, Just hang on." -Guster
User currently offlineStarlionblue From Greenland, joined Feb 2004, 17068 posts, RR: 66
Reply 21, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 9 hours ago) and read 19909 times:

Quoting Jbernie (Reply 19):
On one hand, you can only go off the data you can gather, on the other hand, with way so many variables involved it is next to impossible to really replicate anything ..let alone cost effective to try it. A plane crashing into a river in mid summer has a better chance of survival than the same exact crash in winter when the water is at or below freezing, you can survive the crash but the environment you are in may not be survivable even for someone who was not in a crash, ie just fell through ice.

Indeed. I am not opposed to the idea that there are safer areas. I am opposed to the idea that this hypothesis has been statistically tested.

Quoting Jbernie (Reply 19):
The Mythbusters had on one episode the story of I believe a Russian FA who was in the rear of a plane and survived a crash of some description, given the testing they did it was a drop from some height, can not recall if it was a mid air break up though. They went out and cut up the tail of a jet, they were weight limited which made it harder to get accuracy and dropped the section from a decent height to see what would happen. Their results weren't that inspiring, but in saying that, how do you replicate what are in effect "one off" accidents?

I have noticed that the Mythbusters, while being some of my favorite people to watch on TV, tend to fall down rather hard when it comes to aviation myths.

Quoting DeltaAVL (Reply 20):
I've never heard of anyone afraid of riding in a car, but fear of flying is rather common.

It's a natural instinct. Twin fears of heights and enclosed spaces (both present in the reptile brain for good reasons) combined with the fear engendered by not being in control. Add to that the ever helpful media and it's a wonder anyone flies at all.



"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
User currently offlineMarkHKG From United States of America, joined Dec 2005, 960 posts, RR: 2
Reply 22, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 19809 times:

Quoting Jbernie (Reply 19):
a Russian FA who was in the rear of a plane and survived a crash of some description

Vesna Vulovic, off a DC-9, due to a bomb explosion.

http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=18



Release your seat-belts and get out! Leave everything!
User currently offlineEHHO From Bulgaria, joined Dec 2005, 815 posts, RR: 7
Reply 23, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 19753 times:

Quoting MarkHKG (Reply 22):
Quoting Jbernie (Reply 19):
a Russian FA who was in the rear of a plane and survived a crash of some description

Vesna Vulovic, off a DC-9, due to a bomb explosion.

Yeah, Russia, Croatia or Czechoslovakia, same difference..  indifferent   no 

You can read about the actual Russian tail-section-survivor incident in my post nr. 10.



"Get your facts first. Then you may distort them as much as you please" -- Mark Twain
User currently offlineKuhne From Mexico, joined Jun 2006, 51 posts, RR: 0
Reply 24, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 2 hours ago) and read 19732 times:

It is so true that you are safer on a plane than anywhere else (well maybe not in your room inside your bed) but still.

You guys say that schedueled airliners are the safest way... does that include an older, 737-200 from Aviacsa as well? cos I am about to fly it and I am quite nervous...


25 Bongodog1964 : IMO Instantaneous death in a wingbox fireball may well be preferable to being a groaning jellifed heap with every bone protruding. It is however pure
26 Post contains links PDXtriple7 : Discussions like this have popped up in the past. I'm about to read the article, but my personal opinion is that if any seat actually has a better cha
27 Post contains images Starlionblue : Can of worms! The aircraft age has little impact as long as it's properly maintained. The operator (and thus maintenance regime) has a big impact. Th
28 Post contains links Kuhne : Well this is a 727-200, I am pretty sure it's quite old, this link I will post is a picture of what I am sure is the same plane I am going to fly in.
29 Starlionblue : Depends on Aviacsa maintenance and operations. Yes they do have to approve it. But I have no idea about the maintenance.
30 Kuhne : I hope that the FAA leting aviacsa go into las vegas is a telling of their good maintenance
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