Is there such a thing at all? I feel the front is dangerous because it may hit the ground first. I also feel that near the wings is not safe because they are fuel tanks.


The safest place is in your seat with your seatbelt fastened. It is very rare for anything to happen to your plane at all. When something does happen, the most common subset of this rare occurrence is that nobody is hurt at all - there's a smell of smoke or a light that shouldn't be lit is lit, the plane goes back or lands elsewhere, everything is fine, nobody is hurt. The next most common thing is an "all souls lost" tragedy. Only a little sliver of time (perhaps once a year around the world? I try not to look these things up, actually, but they generally make the news) are there some hurt people and some unhurt people. On the rare occasions where something happens to a plane, and some people are hurt and some are not, the ones who are not hurt are in a seat and belted in. This is typically turbulence or rapid descent.

Situations where planes actually crash and some (but not all) people survive are very rare. Attempting to reason out front vs back, near wings vs away from wings, and so on is not helpful. In some cases one location is better than another; in others that same location is worse. Honestly the incidents are too few to draw good conclusions. Being conscious and unhurt is going to be vital to being able to leave the plane, and that's more likely if you were in a seat (any seat) and belted in.

  • 1
    Totally agree on the seat belt issue, but: the claim that 'situations where planes crash and some people survive are very rare' - that's just plain wrong; please see here for fairly comprehensive statistics. And you may say which location is better may depend on the actual incident - surely it will, but if statistics of combined accidents together show a trend of being safer at the back, then this is a valid information. – greyshade Aug 9 '14 at 21:59
  • "crash landing" is a term used in aviation for almost all kinds of irregular landings, whether plane is totally lost or not, so your claim that people rarely survive is wrong, other than this it is a great answer. – Nean Der Thal Aug 9 '14 at 22:23
  • to both of you, if you ignore incidents where no-one is hurt and those where everyone dies, what you are left with is very small. Maybe one a year? – Kate Gregory Aug 9 '14 at 22:51
  • @KateGregory good point, but why not concentrate on crashes where some people get killed? these are the ones where your answer apply more, especially about the seatbelt part. – Nean Der Thal Aug 9 '14 at 22:55
  • @greyshade: No other mode of transport has such a low fatality. Yes, "1111 fatal accidents" sounds like a whole lot, but let's not ignore the fact this is a total, worldwide sum over half a century (and trillions of miles flown). See, the world is a pretty big place: "1111 fatal accidents worldwide per month" would be considered unusually low for other modes of transport. So, yes, the claim that 'situations where planes crash and some people survive are very rare' is absolutely accurate. – Piskvor left the building Sep 1 '14 at 15:04

I feel the front is dangerous because it may hit the ground first.

(Warning: sweeping generalizations ahead)

Yes, if the plane lands in Lawn Dart mode. In that case no one gets out in (literally) one piece.

Landing accidents often hit tail-first, as the pilot will be trying to pull the plane up. If it's a really good smack on the runway the front part may break away and end up a long distance from the fireball engulfing the rear seats.

With overruns on takeoff the front may stop rather quickly (maybe by running into a ditch at 200km/h) or the back may break away and go crunch all by itself. Or the whole thing skids sideways and the distinction between "front" and "back" is lost in the resulting cartwheel.

Statistics may show one particular area is better over X accidents, but unless you know which accident you are going to have it's just as likely you will be in the wrong section. If you somehow know in advance what kind of crash it is going to be you should just change your flight.

Postscript: just discovered this. In the UA232 crash in 1989, most of the fatalities were at the back and the front. Most of the survivors were in the middle between first class and the start of the wing.


Edit: As Kate Gregory's answer says, having your seat belt fastened is probably the most important safety recommendation. Next would be to know where your next exit is and listening to all the safety information given by the crew.

That said, contrary to the other answers claims, there may be dependencies on where you sit and fatal crashes where some people survive are not seldom - planecrashinfo.com has a rather large database of crashes and draw quite a lot of statistics from them, including that there's a chance of 24-35% of surviving a crash where there are fatalities.

There has been a study on this conducted by popularmechanics in 2007 anaylsing all (NTSB investigated) fatal crashes of some 35+ years before that date.

The results in short are: Survival rate in case of a crash is best in the back of the plane at 69%, over the wings it drops to 54% and in the front of the plane it drops further to 49%.

Note though that these number should be set into the right picture by seeing that the overall odds of dying on a single flight are well below 1 in 4 million (see here).*

Also there was a special of the popular Mayday/Air Crash Investigation TV series on this topic entitled 'Getting out alive' (S13E11) which support the above, but suggests that actually it might be more important to be aware where you sit, where your next exit is and all the safety information given by the crew rather than worrying about what seat you have.

*The Mayday episodes claims that risk is about 1 in 10 million.

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