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Faro
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Backward-Facing Seats

Mon Sep 03, 2007 4:23 am

What with all the safety upheaval in the aftermath of 911, wouldn't it be the ideal opportunity for aviation regulatory bodies to impose backward-facing seats in civilian air transport? IMHO, now is the time to overcome the commercial objections to this safer seating arrangement. Just tell the bloody-minded amongst the travelling public that it's for their own good, which is very precisely what it's for. Wonder what people's opinions are on this matter; it just seems such a logical thing to do.

Also, anyone have any statistics on civilian vs military survivable accidents; I am given to understand that backward-facing is the preferred seating arrangement on military transports.

Faro
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superstring
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Mon Sep 03, 2007 5:17 am

From the safety's point of view, it appears that this is correct. To sit "the other way round" is safer (simply by considering that in most cases the aeroplane hits the ground with the head first) but the point is:
Is the apparent safety gain enouth to force airlines to rearrange the complete configuration? What is the data basis? And if datasets are available, is it really justifiable to switch to a backward seating configuration?

There are also other points which must be considered:

- Costs/Certification: It is expansive to create a new seating configuration; you simply cannot say: Well let's turn the seats and everything is fine, this new configuration has to be certified, ...$$$$$$$
- The feeling factor: Unless the airlines are not forced to make such a backward-facing configuration we won't see any airline which dares to go in that direction. People simply do not want to sit backwards, and I am honest; I also would not appreciate it.
- Safety is an important issue, of course. But it is the same with cars. Take this nice example: No politician will ever dare to start an initiative that cars must not have more than, well lets say 35 HP, although many accidents happen because of speeding (and well who can really speed with no more than 35 HP). So as we won't see any politician to fight against speeding by imposing horsepower limits, I think we also wont see civil airliners with that configuration.

-Finally: Military transports use backward seating indeed (especially if freight is in the cabin); however I think it depends whether the aircraft has windows or not.
 
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Faro
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Mon Sep 03, 2007 5:31 am

Quoting Superstring (Reply 1):
Costs/Certification:

Absolutely right on the cost issue. But then all advances in flight safety, save perhaps procedural changes like CRM, have come at a cost. I just wonder whether now is the not the time to push the issue through the industry and the travelling public. If safety can be had at a cost, let's quantify it. It may not be all that expensive if the safety gains are worth it. As for certification, I don't see what major costs this would entail; it's basically the same seats, width, pitch, etc. Just facing the other way round.

Quoting Superstring (Reply 1):
What is the data basis?

Yes, we need a data set. Chances are it's already out there waiting to be mined. Let's look; what have got to lose?

Quoting Superstring (Reply 1):
People simply do not want to sit backwards, and I am honest; I also would not appreciate it.

To be honest, neither would I but then safety should have precedence. It just seems too ideal an arrangement to let go of. And with 911, I believe the public can be made to accept it, if they've already accepted all the other inconveniences imposed on them so far.
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roseflyer
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Mon Sep 03, 2007 6:07 am

Quoting Faro (Thread starter):
Just tell the bloody-minded amongst the travelling public that it's for their own good, which is very precisely what it's for.

That's the wrong mindset to have. From the manufacturers to the airlines themselves, the industry is built about serving customers. Passengers want to be comfortable too. If one airline put its seats backwards throughout the cabin, then many passengers might choose to avoid that airline because they do not find the seating comfortable. I've sat facing backwards and it is weird sitting at about a 4 degree down angle instead of a 4 degree up angle. You can't alienate your customers and tell them what's good for them. That defeats so much of the marketing in the aviation business. If you look at what Boeing has advertised in the 787, much of it is about improved passenger comfort.

Some airlines do have some rear facing seats like BA, but that is not the entire cabin. I have met people that would absolutely avoid BA if they had to sit in the rear seats. Some are very adament that they will only sit facing forward.

On a personal note though, I do agree that it is very difficult to understand why rear facing seats haven't been adopted.
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Ralgha
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Mon Sep 03, 2007 6:16 am

One reason they haven't been adopted is because a rear-facing seat may help you survive the impact, but you'll get killed in a delightfully gruesome way by all the flying objects from the people sitting behind (infront?) of you.
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Mon Sep 03, 2007 6:24 am

Quoting Ralgha (Reply 4):
you'll get killed in a delightfully gruesome way by all the flying objects from the people sitting behind (infront?) of you.

Those flying objects will fly regardless of what direction passengers are facing. Loose objects constitute a significant threat in survivable accidents, but a wholly separate one unless you can prove that any and all survivors of the kinetic impact will subsequently succumb to a flying object.
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Mon Sep 03, 2007 7:42 am

Quoting Faro (Reply 5):
Those flying objects will fly regardless of what direction passengers are facing.

Yes, except that they will generally fly toward the front of the airplane. Forward facing seats will protect you from forward flying objects, reward facing seats will allow you to greet the forward flying objects personally.
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Markhkg
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Mon Sep 03, 2007 7:51 am

I have always been amazed at the data showing flight attendant survival in air crashes when they were seated in the front of the aircraft. In many cases, these flight attendants were positioned in a rear facing seat, accompanied with a dual-shoulder harness system. For example, in the following accidents, despite being in the front of the plane, flight attendants survived the:
- British Midlands Kegworth Air Crash (B737)
- Atlantic South East Flight 529 crash (EMB-120)

Considering the time it took to implement 16G seats (...and the hoopla about child safety seats)-- I highly doubt this valuable safety feature will be followed up on by the FAA.

[Edited 2007-09-03 00:51:37]
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ba97
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Mon Sep 03, 2007 8:30 am

Interesting on the reluctance as I know of many who love flying backwards in BA Club World, including me. In fact, Seat 10K has been a desired seat in a 777 as it puts you backwards in front of the engine and it is one of the best scenes of the front of the engine with the rising sun beaming into it as you cross the coast of Ireland flying from Canada. the Inner backwards combo also gives you a bit of mental privacy as you are not facing the same way as the masses. Many who say they will not fly backwards, have never done it. If the seating offered more leg room, people would go for it, especially if it is the inner seats where you are not seeing anything out the window anyways.
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Viscount724
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Mon Sep 03, 2007 8:32 am

It would probably save quite a few lives if all seats in cars, buses and trains (except of course the driver's seat) faced backwards, but I'm sure it will never happen.
 
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Jetlagged
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Mon Sep 03, 2007 9:02 am

Quoting Ralgha (Reply 6):
Yes, except that they will generally fly toward the front of the airplane. Forward facing seats will protect you from forward flying objects, reward facing seats will allow you to greet the forward flying objects personally.

Not at all, because rearward facing seats have higher backs, so anything flying forwards will mostly go over your head.

I've flown on a military transport (RAF VC10), all rearward facing seats, very comfortable and absolutely no problems during takeoff and landing.

Some commercial aircraft have had them. Dash 7 and Dash 8 front row, BAC One-Elevens at the overwing exit, not to mention the BA Club Class, where seats are arranged alternately forward and rearward facing. I always choose a rear facing seat if I get the choice.

You can't simply turn the seats round, they are made to a different design, but the seat rails are identical so the cost is not huge. Airlines replace all the seats during cabin refits so rear facing seats could be added then. The cost is not a factor.

I really don't understand why people object to them, in fact I believe most people would easily take to them. It would increase crash survivability immencely. A lot of people survive impact, but cannot escape because their legs are broken by sliding into the underseat structure in front. Rear facing seats not only increase impact resistance, but avoid such leg injuries.

I can't think of a single good reason why rear facing seats are not mandatory in all airliners.
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Tue Sep 04, 2007 3:11 am

Quoting Jetlagged (Reply 10):
I can't think of a single good reason why rear facing seats are not mandatory in all airliners.

The almighty dollar. Imagine the cost. Now I know safety is important, but think of how many other safety features are not implemented due to cost. Starting with the implementation of new and improved ATC systems worldwide.

Or let's look at opportunity cost. If you only have so much money, would some other safety feature investment yield a bigger "return"?
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Tue Sep 04, 2007 5:13 am

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 11):
The almighty dollar. Imagine the cost.

Read my post, I did imagine the cost. Basically the cost of a new set of seats per existing aircraft. These are replaced on occasion anyway when cabins are stripped and refitted. New aircraft delivered with rear facing seats would cost nothing extra.

It might even be possible to convert existing seats. The only requirement would be a slightly taller back rest.

Timescale could be long to reduce the cost impact, but it should be started in my opinion.

All kinds of things previously thought too expensive are now being considered, such as inerting of empty fuel tanks. Rear facing seats do not affect aircraft systems, so the installation is a straight-forward exercise.
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Ralgha
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Tue Sep 04, 2007 6:22 am

Quoting Jetlagged (Reply 12):
Read my post, I did imagine the cost. Basically the cost of a new set of seats per existing aircraft. These are replaced on occasion anyway when cabins are stripped and refitted. New aircraft delivered with rear facing seats would cost nothing extra.

It might even be possible to convert existing seats. The only requirement would be a slightly taller back rest.

Actually it's quite a bit more involved. The seat rails would have to be replaced with stronger ones, and the seats would also have to be stronger. There's been quite a bit of research done, and they all agree that it would be very expensive to refit an airliner with rear-facing seats. Millions of dollars.
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Faro
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Tue Sep 04, 2007 6:37 am

Quoting Ralgha (Reply 13):
There's been quite a bit of research done, and they all agree that it would be very expensive to refit an airliner with rear-facing seats. Millions of dollars.

It would be interesting to know the sources for that research, but it is conceivable that the rails would have to be stronger, given that they would exercise more arresting power, ie, keep pax tightly and resoundingly packed into their seats at the moment of impact, which is exactly what survivability is about, at least initially. No legs flailing about the front seat frames, with knees and tibias a-popping. Then you could actually escape the wreck if you're one of the lucky ones.

As to cost, if it's going to cost millions, let's start with the 787, or all newbuilds of existing airliners. You have got to start somewhere.
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Tue Sep 04, 2007 6:44 am

Quoting Jetlagged (Reply 10):
I can't think of a single good reason why rear facing seats are not mandatory in all airliners.

For the same reason we don't wear PPE and LAP jackets whenever we fly. The chances of an accident are so small that we might as well design the cabin for comfort rather than an extra few thousandth of a percent safety margin.
 
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Tue Sep 04, 2007 7:07 am

Quoting Glom (Reply 15):

For the same reason we don't wear PPE and LAP jackets whenever we fly. The chances of an accident are so small that we might as well design the cabin for comfort rather than an extra few thousandth of a percent safety margin.

The economic, P+L argument is understandable, and indeed not unreasonable. What strikes me though as particularly awkward about conserving the status quo is:

i) the safety argument is manifest and unassailable;
ii) the mechanism to bring it about is inordinately simple, even if it will imply a certain level of development and implementation costs;
iii) I am confident that a survey of survivable accidents (civil vs military, as previously mentioned) would lead to a significant potential in terms of lives that can be thus saved;
iv) as discussed above, if retrofits are too expensive, let's start with newbuilds; and
v) one can always find many reasons to do nothing; let's use the tragic events of 911 and the atmosphere they have created to further the cause of aviation safety. The opportunity is there, let's make the best of it.
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Tue Sep 04, 2007 7:45 am

Quoting Jetlagged (Reply 10):
Some commercial aircraft have had them. Dash 7 and Dash 8 front row, BAC One-Elevens at the overwing exit,

I also recall that BA's European predecessor BEA had several rows of rear-facing seats at the front of the economy cabin on their Hawker-Siddeley Tridents. The rest of the cabin had forward-facing seats. (Possibly the same arrangement in first class but can't recall.) Between the last rear-facing row and first forward-facing row there was a unit attached to the floor with folding tray tables for each of the 6 seats. A few older BEA types (including the Airspeed Ambassador) had a similar layout with several rear-facing rows at the front.

Some Southwest 737s had (possibly still have but I think this has changed) 2.5 rows of rear-facing seats -- the first row, the row in front of the overwing exit, and the 2nd last row (one side only) forming a small "lounge" area. In the 2nd photo below, taken from the rear of a WN 737-300 a few years ago, you can see all the rear-facing seats if you enlarge it and look carefully. They have higher seatbacks, no doubt a safety requirement.


View Large View Medium
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Photo © Justin Cederholm
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Photo © James Richard Covington



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Photo © James Richard Covington


[Edited 2007-09-04 00:50:25]
 
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Jetlagged
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Tue Sep 04, 2007 8:48 am

Quoting Ralgha (Reply 13):
The seat rails would have to be replaced with stronger ones, and the seats would also have to be stronger.

I don't buy the logic of that. If a seat is designed to take so many g deceleration in an accident, that load is the same whichever way the seat is facing. In fact for a rear facing seat the load is more evenly distributed. The load on the rails is identical. The forward facing seat tends to get localised loads (your lap strap plus the shins of the guy behind on the frame and his head in the seat back).

Do the rear facing seats in the photos above look much stronger? Are the seat rails locally reinforced?

I suspect the "research" was heavily loaded in favour of the status quo, rather like the kind of research, sponsored by crisp manufacturers, that says crisps are good for you (crisps = potato chips). I can imagine the brief: "We don't really want these rear facing seats, might take a few more minutes to board the pax, need more seat fabric, that kind of thing. Think of some more things which might put the costs up so we can kill this off..."

Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 17):
Some Southwest 737s had (possibly still have but I think this has changed) 2.5 rows of rear-facing seats -- the first row, the row in front of the overwing exit, and the 2nd last row (one side only) forming a small "lounge" area.

Yeah, I remember the Southwest lounge areas. A bit like the rear facing seats in the BAC One-Eleven and the Dash 8. You lose out on leg room if people are in the seats opposite.
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Ralgha
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Tue Sep 04, 2007 9:46 am

Think whatever you want to man, I don't really care. It's all a giant conspiracy against the little man anyway isn't it?
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bhmbaglock
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Tue Sep 04, 2007 11:59 am

Quoting Jetlagged (Reply 18):
I don't buy the logic of that. If a seat is designed to take so many g deceleration in an accident, that load is the same whichever way the seat is facing.

The moments applied to the rails would be considerably higher.

Personally, I'm a believer and would like to see this happen. I've been through a crash while seated facing the rear and other than the pilot(wearing a 5 pt harness), I was the only other person of 11 on board not hospitalized, some with very serious injuries.
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Faro
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Wed Sep 05, 2007 12:28 am

Quoting Ralgha (Reply 13):
There's been quite a bit of research done, and they all agree that it would be very expensive to refit an airliner with rear-facing seats. Millions of dollars.



Quoting BHMBAGLOCK (Reply 20):
I've been through a crash while seated facing the rear and other than the pilot(wearing a 5 pt harness), I was the only other person of 11 on board not hospitalized, some with very serious injuries.

Would anyone care to put a price tag to BHBAGLOCK's good health, if not his life?
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Wed Sep 05, 2007 4:24 am

Quoting BHMBAGLOCK (Reply 20):
The moments applied to the rails would be considerably higher.

Perhaps 50% higher, if that. However the loads on a forward facing seat are more dynamic (bodies thrown against harnesses), which makes them more severe.

I wonder whether the seat rails are strengthened on military aircraft with rearward facing seats? I'm thinking here of civil aircraft converted for use by the military, like the DC-10, L-1011 and VC10. Or even in civil aircraft with some rear facing rows. When BA installed rear facing seats in it's Club World cabins did it strengthen the rails?

The point is for new designs this can be done economically, and should be done. Existing aircraft would follow once people accepted the idea. Maybe operators are worried about supposed psychological effects? However people have been travelling backward in trains since they were first introduced. Some people prefer it.
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Faro
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Wed Sep 05, 2007 4:28 pm

Quoting Jetlagged (Reply 22):
Perhaps 50% higher, if that. However the loads on a forward facing seat are more dynamic (bodies thrown against harnesses), which makes them more severe.

Yes, the impulse imparted to the rails with backward-facing seats is higher because the force of impact is arrested in a very short span of time via the rails. With forward facing seats, the time is longer because the arrest involves:

i) pax buckling forwards;
ii) legs and knees projecting forwards to smash into forward seat frames; and
iii) seats folding forwards.

All this absorps energy that would otherwise go to the seat rails, and takes time, which lowers the impulse, ie the change in momentum. Backward-facing takes the force and whips it direct to the seat rails, so they have to be stronger.
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Jetlagged
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Wed Sep 05, 2007 8:19 pm

Quoting Faro (Reply 23):
i) pax buckling forwards;
ii) legs and knees projecting forwards to smash into forward seat frames; and
iii) seats folding forwards.

(i) and (iii) don't absorb much energy. (ii) Human bones will absorb some, but I'd rather it was absorbed by slightly stronger seat rails, thanks.  Smile
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DeltaGuy
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Wed Sep 05, 2007 10:25 pm

I personally think riding backwards is something new and different...

Remember when you were kids, you'd want to ride in the back of the station wagon (for us young folks, it was a Ford Taurus), because it had those rear-facing seats?

Our G550 has five of the seats facing rearward, and I always try to snag one if I'm riding in the back of it...nice to be able to see the wings without craining my head, not to mention if we face-plant it'd be one of the best seats in the house to be in. Only better place is up front with a sheep-skin seat and a five-point harness...one purely for the comfort.

DeltaGuy
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Markhkg
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Thu Sep 06, 2007 10:59 am

Quoting DeltaGuy (Reply 25):

Our G550 has five of the seats facing rearward, and I always try to snag one if I'm riding in the back of it...nice to be able to see the wings without craining my head, not to mention if we face-plant it'd be one of the best seats in the house to be in. Only better place is up front with a sheep-skin seat and a five-point harness...one purely for the comfort.

Don't the seats also have shoulder belts though? Corporate F/As are taught, whenever possible (i.e. when their employer/principal allows them to) to seat in the forwardmost rear-facing seat.

Just don't ride on the divan. We call those side facing seats the "seats of death" for a reason.
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57AZ
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Thu Sep 06, 2007 12:53 pm

I would be interested to see what the data on King Air and Cessna 340/400 series aircraft seats is for the forward facing seats versus the aft facing ones. For those who have never been aboard these aircraft, they typically have club seating with the foremost seats facing aft. Frankly, I find the aft facing seats preferable to the forward facing counterparts.
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Faro
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Thu Sep 06, 2007 1:35 pm

Quoting MarkHKG (Reply 26):

Just don't ride on the divan. We call those side facing seats the "seats of death" for a reason.

I guess F/A's are needed more than ever in survivable accidents. It would be natural for airlines to want them to sit in backward-facing seats since they then have more chances of surviving and helping the pax out. Just don't let crash victims' lawyers in on this, they would have a field day...
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Markhkg
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RE: Backward-Facing Seats

Thu Sep 06, 2007 2:24 pm

Quoting Faro (Reply 28):
It would be natural for airlines to want them to sit in backward-facing seats since they then have more chances of surviving and helping the pax out.

Yes, the FAA considers Flight Attendants as essential safety equipment and thus, must be protected accordingly. Rear facing seats also allow the forward flight attendant to have a "direct view" of the cabin to inform the flight deck of any in-cabin emergencies.

You will find some unusual F/A jump seats...like the swivel seat found on the A320 aircraft in the aft (forward facing) or similarly, the swivel B-767 jumpseats. It seems bizarre to me that you would block a potential exit in case the flight attendant became incapacitated.
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