LAST_UPDATEMon, 23 Jul 2018 8pm

Where’s The Safest Place To Sit On An Airplane?

At the back, behind the wings.

If you’re reading this while waiting to board the plane - I’m sorry, I doubt you’ll be able to change your seat.

That First Class seat doesn’t look so classy for ’survival’ now, does it?

I was reading the SAS Survival Handbook, a read that details almost all emergency situations - from trying to get out of a car that’s plunged into a river to making your own wood oven in the jungle, snow, or desert.

The best place to sit, according to professional survivor John Lofty Wiseman, and author of the SAS Survival Handbook, would be at the back of a plane, close to the exit (doors).

And its common sense. If a plane were to crash - the frontal parts of its hull would receive the most damage.

In 1977, Malaysian Airline System Flight 653 on a Boeing 737-200 hit the ground on a near vertical angle at high speed, purportedly being diverted by hijackers. All hands were lost, with 93 passengers and 7 crew members. Well in this case, it doesn’t matter which seat you are sitting at. Worse still, when an entire plane just goes missing mysteriously or gets hit by a supersonic missile, such as MH370 and MH17.

Read More: Previous Air Disasters In Malaysian History

But according to the National Safety Council, the chances of one dying in a plane crash in their lifetime is about one in 5,000. In fact, according to LiveScience you have a 1-in-5 chance of passing away from heart disease, 1-in-121 from suicide and 1-in-100 chance from a motor vehicle accident. However, that flight figure does not take into account if the plane is Malaysian linked, as it seems that such bad malaise has cast its charm on Malaysia. And it’s good to know that for someone who dislikes dogs, the chances of passing away being attacked by a dog is 1-in-147,717.

Popular Mechanics in their 2007 study also found that rear seats were the safest, while Economy class seats gives a 69% chance of surviving as opposed to 56% near the wings, and 49% for those in First and Business class. Discovery TV also set up a daring experiment in which two pilots flew a plane full of sensors and dummies, then parachuted from mid-air. The crash showed that rows 1 through 7 were the most fatal seats as they absorbed most of the impact, with seat 7A sling shotted out of the plane. Could it be that the number 8 really brings ‘good luck’ after all?

The position of the seats are not all telling though. A Channel 4 documentary titled ‘The Crash’ simulated a Boeing 727 crash using dummies in differing seating positions. One was wearing the seat belt and sitting normally, the other in a brace position, and the last one was not wearing the seatbelt at all. As long as you have that seat belt strapped across your waistline, you will survive, experts say.

Don’t forget too that sitting near the exit increases your odds of survival. According to Professor Ed Galea of the University of Greenwich, from studies of more than 100 plane crashes, he found that sitting 5 rows from the exit door allowed a higher chance of escape, and sitting at the aisle won’t hurt either.

Photo: APPhoto: AP

From a technical aspect, Wan Mazlina Wan Mohamed, aviation expert and former aircraft engineer who has worked with the Royal Malaysian Air Force in Crash Recovery and studied Aircraft Crash Investigations, believes that the whole plane is safe.

“Although some people assume seating at the back of the plane is the safest, because it is far from the engine...and near the toilet”.

An ‘emergency exit’ indeed, for those with uncontrollable bladders.

So, the next time your Economy seat gets bumped to Business or First Class, consider the ‘upgrade’. Even if the odds of dying in a plane crash is 1 in 5,000 – a reminder for your next flight booking to improve your odds slightly, sit in Economy class, by the aisle, with your seat belt fastened, within 5 rows of the emergency exit.

Malaysian Digest