Between grab-happy TSA agents and $4 bottles of Dasani, flying is about as fun as oral surgery. Add the possibility of something going wrong up there, and suddenly a five-day Greyhound ride doesn’t sound so bad. Well, we got some intel on the safest place to sit if you have to fly. Staff crash-test dummy Patrick Carone went to Mexico with the Discovery Channel to watch a Boeing 727 drop from the sky like a 70-ton rock. (It's ok - a pilot flew it to 2,500 feet and parachuted out.) Here’s what accident investigator Thomas Barth, Ph.D., found after the smoke cleared. (Hint: First class is for suckers!)
Sit in the cheap sections.
“In our crash, the cabin after the first 10 rows was absolutely survivable,” Barth says, “although there was definitely potential for injury. As far as the difference between, say, row 20 and row 40, basically any vehicle traveling forward when it crashes will have higher forces at the front, and we did see that the crash forces were a bit lower as they went to the back of the airplane.”
Pick an aisle seat.
“From an impact-survivability standpoint, the forces that you’d experience in the window seat versus the middle seat versus the aisle seat are not very different—but let’s say you had to evacuate the plane and you’re in a window seat: There’s a chance that you have an incapacitated person blocking your way. That could make it difficult to get out.”
Avoid older planes.
“Newer seats are stronger. Accident investigations identified that, in otherwise survivable crashes, all the seats had pulled up out of the floor, and everybody was stacked up at the front, dead. I mean, if the plane crashes into a mountain, everybody’s dead. But most crashes are like the one we saw: They are survivable, and you want seats that give you the opportunity to survive.”
Ask the pilot if you can come visit.
“Interestingly, in our crash there was a chance that the pilot and copilot could have survived. Now everything right behind them, the navigator position and the first 10 rows of seats, was completely destroyed. That said, I’ll still take a first-class seat. The chance of being in an airplane crash is very small, and I think the comfort is worth the risk. Flying is a very safe way to travel.”
Catch this epic crash on the Discovery Channel's Curiosity series, airing October 7 at 9pm. In the meantime, here are some explosive clips from the show…