The Bulletin

What's the safest seat on an airplane?

Posting in Design

In the tragic event of a plane crash, where you're seated can mean the difference of life and death.

An experiment, carried out by British TV producers for the Channel 4 documentary "The Crash," showed that the most expensive and coveted sections on an aircraft were also the most vulnerable.

Why's that?

There have been many theories bandied about as to what is the safest settling spot for air travelers. Many have suggested that sitting near the wing of the plane, while previous studies have shown the back segment offers the best likelihood of survival. So the producers, using a Boeing 727, arranged for what was essentially a crash test dummy test in the Sanoran Desert in Mexico. The plane, rigged with cameras, sensors and specially designed mannequin passengers, was sent nose first into the ground to replicate a real accident.

The results showed that the front fuselage area was decimated, meaning that first class passengers would have all perished on impact. The force of the collision though became progressively weaker, down from 12G to around 6G, as you moved further toward the back. In fact, the test showed that 78 percent of those seated in the rear section would have likely escaped with their life, with the passengers seated in the very last row would have had the greatest chance of living through such a catastrophic incident.

The test corroborates the findings revealed by a similar study in Popular Science (the diagram of the results are shown below). But of course we all know the most indestructible location aboard any aircraft is the little black recording box. Hopefully, someday science will figure out a way for all passengers to feel as if they were inside that thing.

The big questions:

Innovations in air travel:

— By on March 28, 2013, 8:58 PM PST

Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure