What is the safest seat on the plane? We asked an aviation expert

The conversation

The safest seats on an airplane may not be the ones you would think of first (Image: Shutterstock)

The safest seats on an airplane may not be the ones you would think of first (Image: Shutterstock)

When booking a flight, do you ever think about which seat will best protect you in an emergency? Probably not.

Most people book seats for comfort, like legroom, or convenience, like easy access to restrooms. Frequent flyers (including this author) may book their seat as far forward as possible so they can disembark faster.

We rarely book a flight hoping to snag a middle, back row seat. Guess what? These seats are statistically the safest on an airplane.

Air travel is safe

Before we get into that, I should reiterate that air travel is the safest form of transportation. In 2019 there were almost 70 million flights worldwide with only 287 fatalities.

According to the US National Safety Council’s analysis of census data, the odds of dying on an airplane are about 1 in 205,552, compared to 1 in 102 in a car. Even so, we pay little attention to fatal traffic accidents, but when we hear about an ATR72 crash in Nepal, it’s the headline on every news site.

Our interest in plane crashes may be because we want to understand why they happen or what the likelihood is that they will happen again. And maybe it’s not a bad thing; Our concern ensures these tragic incidents are thoroughly investigated, which helps keep air travel safe.

In all honesty, you don’t have to worry about safety when boarding a commercial flight. But if you still have that nagging question in your mind, driven by sheer curiosity, read on.

In the middle, behind

It should be remembered that accidents, by their very nature, are not normal. In the 1989 United Flight 232 crash in Sioux City, Iowa, 184 of the 269 people on board survived the accident. Most of the survivors sat behind first class at the front of the plane.

Nonetheless, a TIME investigation examining 35 years of plane accident data found that the middle rear seats of an airplane had the lowest fatality rate: 28%, compared to 44% for the center aisle seats.

Logically, that makes sense. Sitting next to an exit row always gives you the quickest exit in an emergency, provided there is no fire on that side. But an airplane’s wings store fuel, so the center exit rows are disqualified as the safest row option.

At the same time, the proximity to the front means you’ll get hit before those at the back, leaving us with the last row of exits. As you might expect, why the middle seats are safer than the window or aisle seats is because of the buffer created by the presence of people on either side.

Commercial aircraft wings store fuel, which can make this area a bit more dangerous in the very unlikely event of an emergency. (Image: Shutterstock)

Commercial aircraft wings store fuel, which can make this area a bit more dangerous in the very unlikely event of an emergency. (Image: Shutterstock)

Some emergencies are worse than others

The nature of the emergency also determines survivability. When you run into a mountain, your chances of survival drop exponentially, as happened in a tragic 1979 disaster in New Zealand. Air New Zealand Flight TE901 crashed into the slopes of Mount Erebus, Antarctica, killing 257 passengers and crew.

Landing nose-first in the ocean also reduces the chances of survival, as evidenced by Air France Flight 447 in 2009, which killed 228 passengers and crew.

Pilots are trained to minimize the potential risk in an emergency as much as possible. They will try to avoid hitting mountains and look for a flat place e.g. B. an open field to land as normally as possible. Water landing technique requires assessing surface conditions and attempting to land between the waves at a normal landing angle.

Aircraft are designed to be very robust in emergency situations. In fact, the main reason the cabin crew reminds us to keep our seat belts on is not the risk of accidents, but the “clear air turbulence” that can occur at any time at high altitude. It is this weather phenomenon that can cause the most damage to passengers and aircraft.

Manufacturers are designing new aircraft with more composite materials to withstand the stresses of flight. In these designs, the wings are not rigid and can flex to absorb extreme loads and prevent structural failure.

Does the aircraft type make a difference?

Granted, there are certain variables, such as B. the effects of airspeed, which may vary slightly between different aircraft types. However, flight physics are more or less the same for all aircraft.

In general, larger aircraft have more structural material and therefore more strength to withstand the pressures at altitude. This means they can provide an extra layer of protection in the event of an emergency – but again this depends heavily on the severity of the emergency.

That doesn’t mean you should book your next flight on the biggest plane you can find. As I mentioned earlier, air travel remains very safe. So I’d suggest thinking about which movie you’re going to see instead and hoping they don’t run out of chicken and only have the shrimp left!

By Doug Drury, Professor/Head of Aviation, CQUniversity Australia.

This article was republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here.

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https://metro.co.uk/2023/02/10/whats-the-safest-seat-on-a-plane-we-asked-an-aviation-expert-18259065/ What is the safest seat on the plane? We asked an aviation expert

Justin Scaccy

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