With around 25% of Americans having a fear of flying it’s not surprising that some people want to consider all aspects of air travel before booking a flight.
Perhaps one of the most asked questions among nervous flyers is where is an aircraft’s safest seat?
Although air accidents are rare they do happen, and so we have looked at which seats are the safest on an airplane.
Where To Sit On An Airplane?
When you book your flight you may be offered the option to select your seat. This is entirely up to you as some airlines charge and some don’t.
And it’s not as if you pay for your flight, and you won’t get a seat. It will just be randomly assigned to you at the gate.
But if you are concerned about safety, and you would rather choose your seat yourself then there are some facts, statistics and just plain common sense that you need to apply.
What Is A Safe Seat?
First of all, according to the FAA and the airlines there is no such thing as the ‘safest’ seat. All seats are considered safe otherwise the planes would not be taking off full of passengers.
However, the more nervous passengers are concerned about what would happen in the event of an accident or fire aboard the aircraft. For these people choosing the safest seat is all about increasing their chances of survival.
The problem with choosing the ‘safest’ seat is that you cannot predict how or where an accident may happen. The truth is, the odds of you dying in a plane accident are much smaller than you having a fatal accident in a car.
Even if the worst were to happen and your airplane crashed the circumstances of that accident are impossible to foresee. So choosing a seat based on the possibility of a crash negates the multitude of random events that may occur during an accident.
For example, if you choose to sit in the rear of the airplane because statistically that accounts for fewer fatalities and your plane is hit on the runway by another aircraft, it may be the tail that comes off worse.
There is so much randomness that can never be accurately calculated to make the selection of the safest seat possible and foolproof.
However, statistics based on previous air accidents over the last 35 years have thrown up figures that show which seats have the highest chance of survival following a crash.
According to these statistics the seats in the rear or tail section of the plane have the fewest number of fatalities. The number of deaths for those sitting in the back of the aircraft during a crash was 32%.
It is true that many plane wrecks will show a reasonably intact tail section. This may be due to the fact that it is further from the engines and any fires that occur. Or that obviously aircraft tend to crash nose first.
To get even more specific, if you want to find the seat that is the safest rather than just which section of the aircraft is safest, the middle seat in the rear is most likely to survive. If there is such a thing as the best fatality rate, this seat has it at just 28%.
What About Exits?
In the event of a fire those who are closest to the exits stand a better chance of getting out alive. This was concluded by a study done by the University of Greenwich which showed that passengers in these seats stood a greater chance of survival.
So if you are going to choose the rear seats in the aircraft as potentially the safest make sure that there is a rear exit. Not all planes have doors at the rear.
Different aircraft have different configurations so if you know which type of aircraft you will be flying on check the position of the emergency exits before choosing your seat. Most planes have doors at the front, rear and at the sides, over the wings.
Front Of The Aircraft
Seats at the front of the aircraft have a fatality rate of 38% on average following a crash. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the rate of casualties is higher towards the front of the aircraft. Most planes don’t crash backwards after all.
But the front is still statistically safer than the middle of the plane. Again the circumstances of any accident or incident will determine which area of the plane may be most affected. And this is impossible to predict or anticipate.
In The Event Of A Fire
For example in the event of a fire, it will depend where on the plane the fire breaks out. Most often this occurs in the engines which are beneath the wings.
The passengers who are in the first five rows closest to the emergency exit are most likely to escape in the event of a fire.
While sitting in the rear of the plane during a crash may increase your chances of survival slightly, in the case of a fire breaking out those at the back have less chance of making it out alive than those in the front.
Middle Of The Plane
According to statistics the worst place in the event of a crash is the middle of a plane. More specifically the aisle seats in the mid-section of the aircraft give the highest fatality rate at 39%.
Perhaps the most compelling reason for this is that the middle section of the plane’s cabin is in line with the wings. The wings are where the engines are located and where the fuel is stored.
These both offer the risk of fire and catastrophic failure.
In the event of impact the wings are also more likely to shear off, taking some of the fuselage with them. A longer aircraft may also snap in two on impact and the most likely point for this is the center of the fuselage.
Fuel on a commercial aircraft is stored in the wings. This is both space saving but also creates balance in the airplane while weighting the wings for optimum balance.
While this works well for economy and aerodynamics it does mean that the middle of the plane is the most vulnerable to fire and engine blow outs.
If there is a fire the emergency exits over the wings are not an option, and you would need to get to the front of the plane to get out.
The Federal Aviation Authority has said that there is no such thing as the safest seat. It is a sentiment echoed by the airlines.
While statistics may indicate that there is a slightly greater chance of survival by sitting in the rear of a plane there is no guarantee that this will happen.
Accidents by their very nature can be random occurrences and who survives can be just as easily down to luck as to anything else. However, flying remains one of the safest modes of travel so try not to worry about what might happen and enjoy your flight.