About Aviation Safety: what’s the safest seat?

Each time a mishap occurs in the World of aviation, one of the side effects is that people ask me if flying is dangerous (or more dangerous than before). I think that I have explained my point of view many times before. Just talking about Italy, 152 lost their lives on the roads during the four August’s weekends: I feel more comfortable when seated inside the fuselage of an aircraft (either military or civilian) than driving a few miles with my car.

A far more interesting question was asked by some friends who read an article about the safety of commercial aircraft’ seats. Obviously, all this kind of articles on Aviation Safety are published after major emergencies and accidents occur. According to that article, the Greenwich University has determined that the most safe seats on a burning aircraft are those in the forward part of the fuselage, and those within 5 rows from an emergency exit. Basing on 105 crashes and 2000 witnesses, the passengers sitting next to the nose have 65% probability to escape, compared to the 53% of those in the back. Then, aisle seats are better then windows ones, 64% vs 58%.

That said, I think that is quite obvious that the nearer you are to an emergency exit, the better; I think that the study adds not so much to what a normal people could autonomously guess.
Adding something more, I could affirm that the seat that guarantees the 100% possibility to escape a burning aircraft is….the one on another aircraft (or your room’s couch)….

Anyway, that study deals with one particular emergency (fire). If the aircraft experiences another kind of catastrophic event, maybe (but I don’t really know), that standing elsewhere (inside the aircraft obviously), could be better than sitting in the first class next to the exits.

In order to understand my attitude towards seat arrangements just think that the only thing I tell to my wife (that is the most important thing of my life) when she flies without me is: “keep your seat belt always fastened”.

But, when I fly with her I struggle to:

  1. reserve two seats next to the emergency exit
  2. give her the aisle seat

Why? Am I scared of something?
No, I just want to enjoy the flight from my window seat taking as much picture as possible with my digital camera and:

  1. reserve two seats next to the emergency exit = so she can rest better and stretch her legs without complaining each time because the airplanes are uncomfortable and long haul flights (the ones that I like the most) are boring
  2. give her the aisle seat = because if she takes the windows’ one she would wake me up each time she needs to go to the rest rooms

BTW: the most detailed guide to the seats arrangements on board any airline is provided by SeatGuru http://www.seatguru.com/.

Many happy landings.


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.