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Air Crash: Is there a safest seat in an aircraft?

Air Crash: Is there a safest seat in an aircraft?

Is there any such thing as a safe place to sit in an aircraft? This question is often asked by people who have a phobia for flying or who just want to know if a seat choice could save a life during a crash.

It is interesting to know that the middle seats in the rear of an aircraft historically have the highest survival rates.

This is based on a study of aircraft accidents by TIME in the last 35 years. TIME went through the Federal Aviation Administration’s CSRTG Aircraft Accident Database looking for accidents with both fatalities and survivors. TIME found 17 with seating charts that could be analysed. The oldest accident that fit our criteria was in 1985; the most recent was in 2000.

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The analysis found that the seats in the back third of the aircraft had a 32 percent fatality rate, compared with 39 percent in the middle third and 38 percent in the front third.

Looking at row position, TIME found that the middle seats in the rear of the aircraft had the best outcomes (28 percent fatality rate). The worst-fairing seats were on the aisle in the middle third of the cabin (44 percent fatality rate).

After a crash, survivors who are near an exit are more likely to get out alive, according to a study published in 2008 from the University of Greenwich which looked at emergency exit usage after an accident.

Of course, the chances of dying in an aircraft accident have less to do with where you sit and more to do with the circumstances surrounding the crash. If the tail of the aircraft takes the brunt of the impact, the middle or front passengers may fair better than those in the rear.

TIME found that survival was random in several accidents — those who perished were scattered irregularly between survivors. It’s for this reason that the FAA and other airline safety experts say there is no safest seat on the plane.

Doug Drury, a professor at Central Queensland University, said because the aisle seats do not offer a buffer on one side, the passenger will likely be struck with crash properties.

Drury shared this information in The Conversation, reassuring travellers that ‘air travel is the safest mode of transportation.’

However, planes crash, so he has shared the best and worst places to sit on a craft.

The professor explained that in 1989, United Flight 323 crashed in Sioux City, Iowa.

And 184 of the 269 passengers survived – most of who were sitting behind first class, near the front of the plane.

Robert Gifford, director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, said: ‘Your chance of survival should not be based on your ability to pay for an emergency exit seat or to reserve your seat online.’

Read also: Boeing whistleblower raising alarm over the aircraft safety found dead

The 1985 Manchester airport fire which claimed 55 lives on a British Airtours 737 caused by an exploding engine.

The resulting fire blazed on one side of the aircraft, blocking several exits. A study found that the passengers who died were, on average, sitting more than double the distance from a usable exit as those who survived.