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Helicopter and Plane Crash Lawyer

Survive A Plane Crash - Sit In The Safest Seat

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Editor: James T. Crouse
Profession: Aviation Accident Attorney

November 09, 2007

By Frieda Flyer

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There has been a long time myth that it doesn't matter where you sit on a airplane - Boeing states "one seat is as safe as the other", FAA states "there's just no way to say", and Airsafe's comment is "there is no safest seat". According to Popular Mechanics, these "expert" opinions are not based on hard data.

P.M. has investigated this question and says, "We're safest in the back of the plane." After nearly 200 passengers died in a Brazilian incident, PM studied 36 years of NTSB findings and seating charts and tells us to move to the back, in fact, the further back we sit, the better our chances - about 40% better. Now, that's an inconvenient concept for travelers who want to be as close to the front as possible - it's quieter, it feels less cramped, and we're off the planes faster if we have to make a connecting flight.

Popular Mechanics studied every commercial jet crash (20 of them) in the U.S. since 1971 in which there were fatalities and survivors. For weeks, they studied NTSB reports from crash investigators and studied the seating charts where each passenger was seated and if they survived or not - then they did their calculations. Their findings:

In 11 of the 20 crashes, rear passengers clearly fared better. Only five accidents favored those sitting forward. Three were tossups, with no particular pattern of survival. In one case, seat positions could not be determined. In seven of the 11 crashes favoring back-seaters, their advantage was striking. For example, in both the 1982 Air Florida accident in Washington, D.C., and the 1972 crash of an Eastern 727 at New York's Kennedy Airport, the handful of survivors were all sitting in the last few rows. And when a United DC-8 ran out of fuel near Portland, Ore., in 1978, all seven passengers who died were sitting in the first four rows.

The five accidents that favored forward seating occurred between 1988 and 1992 - although there is no explanation for this, the odds are still overwhelmingly in favor of rear seating. Based on this analysis, survival rates are as follows: First/Business Class - 49%, ahead of/over the wing - 56%, and rear cabin/behind the wing - 69%.

So on your next flight, head for the back of the plane, buckle up, relax and read a good book. You're in the safest part of the plane - remember there has been only one (Comair, 1/17/07) fatal passenger plane crash in the United States in the last five years - the odds will be in your favor.

Enjoy your travels!

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