What is the safest seat in an airliner?

 I donít believe there is any place on an airliner that will give you a statistical safety advantage. If the crash is a survivable one and the death toll is determined by how fast the passengers evacuate, then sitting next to an emergency exit would give you an advantage over others who are farther away. PROVIDED the fire wasnít right outside your particular exit or your exit wasnít deformed or otherwise not functional..... You get my point. (That is also the view of Mary Schiavo, whose book is reviewed on Airlinesafety.com, by Ken Madden.)

The British Airtours accident at Manchester England, on 8-22-85, is a classic example of how rapid evacuation is essential when the plane is on fire. The plane never got off the ground and the cabin remained undamaged, yet 55 died (total of 137 on board):

"The major cause of the fatalities was rapid incapacitation due to the inhalation of the dense toxic/irritant smoke atmosphere within the cabin, aggravated by evacuation delays caused by a door malfunction and restricted access to the exits." [Air Accidents Investigation Branch, The Department of Transport, England]

Another is the USAir 737 runway collision with a Skywest Metroliner as it landed on 24 left at LAX on 2-1-91. Eleven of the 12 fatalities on the Metroliner were the result of impact traumaóthat part of the accident was not survivable. One passenger died of smoke inhalation and burns. No survivors on that plane. On the 737, only the captain died from traumatic injuries (the 737 continued on, after running over the Metroliner, and impacted a building on the left side of the cockpit). Nineteen passengers and one flight attendant died of asphyxia due to smoke inhalation. One passenger, who did evacuate, died a few days later from the effects of thermal burns. The other 77 on board survived by getting out in time. The resulting ground fire destroyed the 737.

June, 1998

Robert J. Boser    

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The Editor of this Web Page, now retired, was an airline pilot for 33 years and holds 6 specific Captain's type-ratings on Boeing Jet Airliners.


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