A nervous flier may try to allay fears of perishing in a plane crash by selecting a particular seat, deemed statistically safer than the others. Controversy surrounds the question of whether one seat is substantially safer than another, given the extremely small probability of a plane crashing to begin with. Nonetheless, various research teams have compared past plane accidents to determine a few tips for the choosing the "safest" seats.
At the Back
"Popular Mechanics" reports that the seats in an airplane's rear cabin are statistically safer than those over the wings or near the nose of the plane. The research supporting their conclusions compared the survival rates of 20 plane crashes; in 11 of the accidents, the rear passengers fared much better than the others. In five crashes, those seated at the front had a better chance of survival and in the remaining cases, the fatality rate was comparable. The report calculated an overall survival rate of 69 percent in the rear cabin, versus 56 percent over the wing or ahead of the wing and 49 percent in business or first class.
On An Aisle
The University of Greenwich has established that aisle seats are safer than window or center seats, according to the Daily Mail and the Sunday Times. By opting for an aisle seat instead of a window, the survival rate leaps from 58 percent to 64 percent. The research used statistics from 105 accidents from around the world and compiled the reports of more than 2000 accident survivors.
Near An Exit
The University of Greenwich study found that sitting near an exit is even more important than sitting by the aisle. The study recommends sitting within five rows of an exit, as chances of survival dramatically reduce at a distance of six rows or more. The proximity to an exit is of even greater importance than sitting toward the front or back of the plane, according to the University of Greenwich. In fact, the study even contradicts the findings from "Popular Mechanics'" research; the over-wing area, all situated within five rows of an exit, is even safer than the back of the plane, according to the University of Greenwich study.
For every voice claiming that one seat is safer than another, you'll find another expert asserting just the opposite. Todd Curtis, aviation safety expert and author of "Understanding Aviation Safety Data," says plane accidents happen under such varied circumstances that it's impossible to bet on the safest seat. A better way to improve your chances of survival is by booking direct flights. Most crashes happen during take off or descent, so limiting the number of landings will lower your chances of experiencing an accident.