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Worried about a Crash? Where to Sit on an Airplane

Thursday, December 08, 2016By Richard Alexander

It is often said that commercial airplanes are one of the safest modes of travel. Just last year, for example, CNN reported that “[n]othing was safer than [] U.S. commercial planes, which have been involved in very few crashes.” Despite the relatively low accident rate of commercial airplanes, many people continue to suffer from a fear of flying. Perhaps choosing the safest seat will help those with flight phobia.

Although federal agencies have not studied this issue, both Popular Mechanics and Time magazine have. Their results may surprise you.

Popular Mechanics reviewed decades of federal government accident and seating chart data in drawing its conclusion. The magazine concluded that passengers sitting in the back had a better chance of surviving a commercial airplane crash: “Passengers near the tail of a plane are about 40 percent more likely to survive a crash than those in the first few rows up front.

Time looked at data, including seating charts, from the Federal Aviation Administration. Its results were similar to those reached by Popular Mechanics: “seats in the back third of the aircraft had a 32% fatality rate, compared with 39% in the middle third and 38% in the front third.” The magazine also determined that passengers sitting in the middle seats were less likely to be killed in crashes; aisle seats in the center of the plane fared worst, at 44 percent.

Although both publications reviewed data from numerous crashes, the manner of crash matters. In fact, Time reported that “survival was random in several accidents.”

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