I don’t like to sit in back of a plane because it seems like a much bumpier ride. You actually do get a smoother ride when you sit in the middle of the plane, over the wing, because it’s close to the plane’s center of lift and gravity.
But next time I’m on a plane I may brave the bumps and sit in the back, where it’s somewhat safer, according to a 2015 Time magazine study of aircraft accidents during the 35 years before that.
Reviewing the Federal Aviation Administration’s Cabin Safety Research Technical Group Aircraft Accident Database (that’s a mouthful), Time found seating charts for 17 accidents with both fatalities and survivors. The accidents occurred between 1985 and 2000.
The analysis showed seats in the back third of the aircraft had a 32 percent fatality rate, compared with 39 percent in the middle third and 38 percent in the front third of the plane. Middle seats in the rear of the aircraft had the best outcomes with a 28 percent fatality rate. The worst seats for safety were on the aisle in the middle third of the cabin, which had a 44 percent fatality rate.
Moral: Don’t complain next time you get the middle seat in the last row of a full plane, between a crying kid and a crochety old guy, and three feet from the restroom. There’s a good chance you’ll live to see another day.