In the aftermath of the recent Turkish Airlines crash in Amsterdam, in which nine people died but others walked away with little more than a few bruises, many are asking which is the safest place to sit in a plane. The topic is currently a popular one among the Dutch media. I don’t believe that there is such a thing as “the safest spot”. As with all types of accidents, there are so many factors involved which determine the outcome. For instance, many contend that sitting in line with the wing is the safest as there are overwing exits and that area is the strongest part of a plane’s structure. However, you’re also sitting next to and above the plane’s fuel tanks; not good if there’s a fire.
An article in the Dutch daily ‘Het Parool’ yesterday highlighted various studies on this subject. According to the article, a scientific magazine ‘Popular Mechanics’ did a study in 2007 of air crashes in the US since 1971. The study concluded that passengers who sit in the back rows have a higher chance of survival than those in the front. A separate study of 105 air crashes by British experts concluded that the most dangerous seats are those by the window, especially in the back (the article didn’t explain why). However, if there is a fire, passengers who sit in the front have a better chance of escaping than those in the back (probably something to do with the fuel tanks being in the back). Passengers who sit within five rows of an exit have the biggest chance of escaping alive during a fire in a plane. So, is there really a safe spot? Airlines contend that there is no such thing. I would agree, though sitting close to an exit is a good idea. There’s usually more legroom at the exit and if in the unlikely event… well, you’ll be one of the first out of the plane.