With all the talk about ancillary airline fees, paying for exit row seats and the like, I was reminded of the sad reality that choosing the safest seat on airplane may be a lifesaver.
Delta Flight 191: A Personal Tragedy.
A friend and employee, Jean Hancock (sister of Herbie), died on Delta Flight 191, when it crashed on landing at DFW in August 1985. Jean died far too young at age 41. It’s something that’s always been haunting. She was returning from visiting family in Florida, and as a technology consultant and very frequent flyer, had upgraded to first class. On approach to landing the plane crashed as a result of pilot error combined with extreme micro-burst wind shear. Most of the 27 survivors of Flight 191 were located in the rear section of the plane, which broke free from the main fuselage before the aircraft hit a water tank.
“In 11 of the 20 crashes, rear passengers clearly fared better. Only five accidents favored those sitting forward.”
Some Data Suggests Rear Seating Is Safest Seat on Airplane.
Reports on safety data that I’ve read have been somewhat conflicting. One study that looked at 36 years of crash data, however, indicated that the further back in the plane you sit, the safer you are.
And according to Time, sitting in a middle seat of all things, located in the rear third of the plane is safest. Those have the lowest fatality rate compared with window or aisle seats.
Consistent Advice: Sit Near An Exit Row.
Other advice I’ve heard in the industry, read widely and try to follow suggests that you’re safer if you sit on the aisle in close proximity to an exit row. So if you’re paying for an exit row, you might just be safest if you choose one near the rear of the plane. Unfortunately, it’s typically quieter and less turbulent in the front, where planes tend to be more stable.
What Are Your Thoughts?
Do you think about your safety when choosing an airline seat? And do you choose to pay for an exit row at least partly for that reason?
This post was originally published on Beat of Hawaii in 2011 and updated in 2017.