It may not be where you think it is. I’ve often heard “within five rows of the exit row” cited as the safest area on the airplane.
And it makes sense logically–if you only have a short period of time to leave the plane, the closer to the exit, the better.
But I haven’t ever been able to find an actual study that says that. It just always seems to be a stat on a top 5 list.
But Popular Mechanics looked at the actual data, and this figure seems to be very wrong.
While people have died in a fire waiting to exit the plane (which is why you should not get your overhead baggage), we need to consider the fatalities that come from the crash itself.
For several weeks, we pored over reports filed by NTSB crash investigators, and studied seating charts that showed where each passenger sat and whether they lived or died. We then calculated the average fore-and-aft seating position of both survivors and fatalities for each crash.
We also compared survival rates in four sections of the aircraft. Both analytical approaches clearly pointed to the same conclusion: It’s safer in the back.
I had seriously internalized the statistic about sitting near the exit doors, so this came as a huge surprise to me.
Mythbusters also studied what seating arrangement would result in the fewest fatalities–but it would literally mean changing around the seating.
So maybe being by a door will get you out faster, but sitting in the back could save you on the initial impact.